[Page] [Page] A Practical Discourse UPON CHARITY, In its several Branches: And of the Reasonableness and Ʋseful Nature of this Great CHRISTIAN VIRTUE.

By EDWARD PELLING, D. D. Chaplain in Ordinary to Their Majesties, and Rector of Petworth in Sussex.

LONDON, Printed by E. I. for W. Crooke at the Green-Dragon without Temple-Bar, 1693.


  • THE Introduction. Page 1.
  • The Nature of Christian Charity, what it is, and how it differs from Justice. 6
  • The Benefit that comes to ones Mind by a Chari­table Temper. 25
  • The Resemblance it bears to the Nature of God. 34
  • How it serves to answer the Great Ends of the New Covenant. 47
  • How it fits and prepares us for an Happy State hereafter. 61
  • How we are to express our Charity. 75
  • Several ways of expressing it, according to the Characters given of Charity by St. Paul. 76
  • Charity must be express'd by not being Angry on a sudden. 79
  • Charity must be express'd by moderating Anger. 82
  • Directions for the Government of this Passion. 92
  • We must express our Charity by all manner of Kindness, p. 104. To another's Soul, p. 111. To his outward Wants, p. 112. And to his Credit also, p. 116
  • Charity forbids us to be Envious; and why. 119
  • Charity forbids us to be Precipitant and Rash. 128
  • Directions to keep us from being Rash. 131
  • [Page]We must express our Charity by our Humility, and why. Page 134
  • 'Tis inconsistent with Charity to do any Thing that is Foul, or Indecent. 145
  • We must express our Charity by seeking the Pub­lick Good, p. 157. Especially Peace, p. 162
  • Charity forbids us to be Suspicious and Jealous-headed. 178
  • Charity forbids us to Rejoyce at other Men's Sins, p. 188. And at other Men's Calami­ties, p. 194. Directions as to this, p. 195
  • We must express our Charity by our Zeal for the Prosperity of true Religion, p. 200. Dire­ctions as to this, p. 203
  • We must expsess our Charity by concealing other People's Faults, p. 209. And why, p. 212. Directions, p. 219
  • We must express our Charity by Believing the best of others in all Doubtful Cases, p. 224. Directions as to this, p. 228
  • Charity requires us to Hope well of others, espe­cially as to their future State, 234
  • Christian Charity must be express'd by Patience in all Cases, p. 247. By Patience in a Suffering Condition, p. 250. And in case of Difference in Matters of Opinion, p. 261
  • The Conclusion. 275

A Practical Discourse UPON CHARITY.

THAT infinitely Wise and Beneficent Being that made the World, to communicate him­self to his Creatures, and to make them Partakers of his Goodness, hath given such Laws of Virtue to Mankind, as serve, not only to prepare us for the endless Feli­cities of another Life, but also to [Page 2] make us in a great measure happy in this. For those Virtues are Copies of God himself, Tran­scripts of his own most Blessed Nature; and therefore they must necessarily tend to make us hap­py, because God himself is happy in them. God's Happiness consi­steth in the admirable Perfections of his Nature; and the higher we rise in these Perfections, the greater degrees of Happiness we must needs attain to, because we approach the nearer unto God, in the resemblance of whom the true and solid Happiness of Man­kind doth consist, though the corrupt part of the World doth evermore place it in other Things.

Those Virtues I now speak of are the Divine Perfections which are the Rule of God's Actions to­wards Mankind: As, the Purity [Page 3] and Holiness of his Nature, by means whereof he hateth all man­ner of Iniquity; his Essential Ve­racity, by reason whereof he can­not lye; his Faithfulness in the performance of all his Promises, upon which account he is empha­tically called, The faithful God, Deut. 7. 9. His Patience and Long-suffering towards the greatest Cri­minals, not willing that any should perish; the exact Rectitude of his Will, by means whereof he offers not the least Injury to any part of the Creation, but is Righteous and Just in all his Proceedings: But above all his infinite Compas­sion, (a God full of Compassion he is called, Psal. 86. 15.) by virtue whereof he is Gracious, Merciful, slow to Anger, and plenteous in Goodness. These Perfections the ever-blessed God communicates [Page 4] to Mankind, according to their Capacities; and in the exercise of these Virtues doth our true Hap­piness consist. It is not Riches or Greatness, or any Worldly Enjoy­ments, that make our Minds or our Lives happy: Then are we happy indeed, when we are holy as God is Holy; when we are Sincere and Upright, Constant, Patient and Just as God is; and above all, when our Mercy rejoyceth over Justice, as God's doth; when we put on Bowels of Mercy; when we are Kind, and Good, and Tender-hearted towards one another; when we forbear one another, and forgive one another; in short, when we love one ano­ther, as God himself loves us all. This is our greatest Perfection: a Perfection recommended to us in the Scripture under singular Cha­racters; [Page 5] above Faith, or Hope, or any other Grace: And in the pra­ctice of this Virtue our truest Happiness must needs consist, be­cause it carrieth the greatest Re­semblance of the Divine Nature. God is Love, saith the Apostle, 1 John 4. 8. that is, the Perfection of Love, Goodness, and Charity is in him.

In discoursing upon this Sub­ject, Charity, as it relates to Man­kind, it will be necessary,

  • 1. First, To explain the true Nature of it.
  • 2. To consider the Motives which serve to make it Pra­ctical.
  • 3. To shew the Way and Man­ner, after which it is to be express'd.


1. As to the Nature of Charity: It is such a Principle of Kindness and Benevolence, as doth dispose us to do others all the good we can, over and above that which is their due by the Laws of Com­mon Justice. This is to be noted carefully, that we may understand the difference between Justice pro­perly so called, and true Christian Charity.

The Office of Justice is to do those Things which a Man hath a Civil Right unto; Things which he can claim and challenge; Things which cannot be denied him without manifest Wrong and Injury. Now this, even Irreli­gious and Hard-hearted People are capable of doing; nor is this [Page 7] always a Virtue, because it pro­ceedeth many times not from Choice, but Necessity. Charity is a Tenderness and Goodness of Mind, which constrains us to do more than what Humane Laws oblige us to. 'Tis a Virtue that stirs the Bowels, that moves and works upon the Affections, that extends our Compassion, and en­larges our Hearts beyond the common Limits: A Virtue that inclines us to be Benevolent unto all Men; to wish them all the Good their condition calls for; to be Supplicants for it on their be­half at the Throne of Grace; to aid and assist them towards the obtaining of it; and for the Love of God and for Religion-sake to help them, not only to those Things which are really due from Ʋs, but to those Things also which [Page 8] are necessary, fitting, and proper for Them, tho' they be not Debts in a strict Sense and Construction. In a word, it is a Generosity of Temper, that is apt to suit it self to the condition of others, accor­ding to the moving Nature of their present Circumstances.

The Rule of Righteousness is, To render every Man his own; But this may be without Charity; and therefore this alone is beneath the Generous and Noble Disposition of a Christian; it doth not come up to the perfect Law of Christ: Charity, though it hath a mixture of Justice in it, yet it is a great deal more: and that it may be compleat, as it should be, these two Qualifications are very neces­sary.

[Page 9] First, That it be of the same Nature with that Affection which we have for our selves.

Secondly, That it resemble that great Love which the Lord Jesus express'd for us all.

First, Our Charity to others must be of the same Nature with the Affection we have for our selves. This is the true Rule of Charity, especially as it is heightned and improved by the Christian Religion, Thou shalt love thy Neigh­bour as thy self; that is, with the same good natur'd and kind Affe­ction, though it may be not in the same Measure and Degree.

There is indeed a sort of Self-love that is sinful, an Affection that begins and ends at home too; when a Man is for pleasing him­self [Page 10] only, when he seeks his own only; when he makes himself the sole end of all his Actions; and would fain engross to himself all that is good and desirable in this World, begrudging his Neigh­bour any considerable Share or Proportion of it. Now this is so far from being a Rule of Charity, that there is nothing of Charity in it; nothing more opposite to the true Spirit of Charity, than such a selfish Temper.

But there is too an innocent kind of Self-love, which necessa­rily riseth out of a Natural Prin­ciple of Self-preservation; when a Man, notwithstanding the great­ness and largeness of his Mind, doth consult the Good of others so, as not to neglect his own, but takes a due Care of himself in the first place. This Natural Af­fection [Page 11] every one hath for him­self; and it is attended inseparably with these two Properties;

First, Every one loves himself Ʋnfeignedly and Sincerely. To be sure, there is no Flattery, no Pretence, no Compliment in this case. Our Affections may be be­liev'd and trusted, when they speak favourably on our own side; for no Man ever yet hated his own flesh: We cannot but wish our selves well, and those Wishes always come from our very Hearts. And according to this Rule the Chri­stian Law obligeth us to measure out our Charity to others: It must be Love without dissimula­tion, Rom. 12. 9. Love unfeigned, 2 Cor. 6. 6. Love, not in word, or in tongue only, but in deed, and in truth, Jam. 3. 18. Under colour [Page 12] of Affection to contrive or help one anothers Misfortunes, is like the Charity of him, who betrayed the Lord Jesus with a Kiss. People are not wont to be Traytors to themselves after such a manner: Though in the Consequence and Event they many times prove their own Enemies, and the worst Enemies they have; yet no Man betrays himself with Judas his Purpose; the Intention on which we all act is still levelled at that which we believe or suppose to be good for us: And this is pro­perly to love our Neighbour as ones self; to be as really solici­tous for his Welfare in all re­spects, as for ones own; to have the same reality and sincerity of Purpose; to be influenced and animated with the same quality and truth of Affection, though [Page 13] the Case may admit of a diffe­rence as to proportion.

Secondly, Another Property that attends all innocent Love of our self is, that it is firm and con­stant. Because it flows from an innate Principle of Self-preserva­tion, it must of necessity hold and continue as long as Nature it self lasteth; nor can any Circum­stances, Events, or Disappoint­ments alter any Man's Temper so, as to render him fickle and un­steady to himself; much less dis­solve the strict Band which ties his own Heart to him, faster than that which was between the Souls of Jonathan and David. Why thus too must Brotherly Love con­tinue, Hebr. 13. 1. because the Reasons of Charity are ever the same, viz. The Obedience we [Page 14] owe to the Law of God, and the common Wants among Mankind, which always call for our mutual Pity and Assistance; there is a constant necessity for our Minds to be always benevolently and tenderly disposed. And though Resentments may and oftentimes do unavoidably happen, by rea­son of the Ignorances of some, the Passions of others, and the Hereditary Infirmities of us all; yet no Provocations or Injuries must affect Men so, as to harden their Spirits, or fill their Bowels with Gall and Wormwood: Since the fix'd Rule is, that we must Love our Neighbours as our selves, we are no more permitted to be weary of our Charity to other Men, than we permit our selves to be weary of doing good to our own Souls.

[Page 15] But there is a higher and no­bler Rule of Charity yet; and that is, to Love one another, as the Lord Jesus himself hath loved us. Because the Love even of ones self may be defective, imperfect, and mixed with some Alloy; therefore the great Lover of all our Souls hath made his own Charity to be the Standard and Measure of ours. Upon which account he calls it, A new Com­mandment: A New Commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye love one another, John 13. 34. In respect of the Matter of it, the Law of Mutual Charity is an old one; for it hath been written in the Hearts of Men from the be­ginning, and it was expresly given to the Jews, Lev. 19. 18. It is a New Commandment in respect of [Page 16] that High and Eminent Degree, to which our Blessed Saviour hath raised it. Men's Charity now must bear a Resemblance of his; Love one another as I have loved you: This is the thing which makes it a New Commandment indeed.

The Scripture speaks of three Things especially, which were pe­culiarly remarkable in the Love of Christ.

1. That he extended his Love to open and declared Enemies. The Old Commandment which required the Jews to Love their Neighbour as themselves, permit­ted them to Hate an Enemy; nay, in some cases bound them to ex­press all manner of Hostility a­gainst such as were Aliens to the Faith, and to the Commonwealth [Page 17] of Israel; But saith the Apostle, God commended his Love to­wards us, in that while we were yet Sinners, Christ died for us; and when we were Enemies, we were reconciled to God by the Death of his Son, Rom. 5. 8, 10. And again, when we were alienated, and Enemies in our Minds by wicked Works, Col. 1. 21. That is, this was a stupendous, a most amazing Expression of Christ's Love, that he undertook the great Work of Redeeming a profligate World, wretched Creatures that had bid God defiance, that were Haters of all that is Good and Holy, and thereby had brought themselves into a lost and dam­nable condition: And yet this he did voluntarily, and of his own accord, when there was nothing in the World to move him to it [Page 18] but his own infinite Compassion, and Tenderness only.

2. The second thing that was Peculiar and New in the Love of Christ, was, that he was before-hand with his Enemies in these Expressions of his Goodness to them. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, John 15. 16. And, Herein is Love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, 1 John 4. 10. Meaning, that this is a clear and astonishing demon­stration of his Goodness, that in transacting the mysterious busi­ness of Reconciliation, he was pleased to have the first hand; that he prevented us with his own early Offers; and surprised us with Terms of Peace and Happi­ness, when no such thing was either desired, or expected, or [Page 19] so much as thought of by the World.

But Thirdly, That which was most peculiar of all, most emi­nent and wonderful in the Love of Christ, was his Dying for his Ene­mies: There is not in the Old Com­mandment a Syllable of any Obli­gations to such an high degree of Charity as this is, of laying down their Lives, no not for their Bre­thren. And one Reason of it is, because length of Days, and Tem­poral Felicity was the great Re­ward, that was plainly and ex­presly promised under the Law to such as kept it: And therefore they were not bound by any Prin­ciple of pure Charity, to part, for any Man's sake, with that, which was the greatest Blessing the Law could give them. So that Christ's [Page 20] dying as he did, the Just, for the Ʋnjust; was the sublimest act of Love that could be; for greater Love than this hath no Man, that a Man lay down his Life for his Friends, John 15. 13. Only our Saviour's own Charity was far greater, in laying down his most precious Life even for his Ene­mies.

His Commandment therefore, that we should love one another as he himself hath loved us, is al­together a new one, such Charity was never before required of the World; such Charity was never heard of before: Charity of such a vast height and measure was quite a new thing. Scarcely for a Righteous Man will any one die; saith the Apostle: Though perad­venture for a good Man some would even dare to die. Yet God com­mended [Page 21] his Love towards us, (it was infinitely beyond all the Cha­rity that ever had been among Men) in that while we were yet Sin­ners, Christ died for us, Rom. 5. 7, 8.

By what hath been thus briefly spoken, we may now easily dis­cern the true and genuine Nature of that Charity, which is proper­ly called Christian: It is such a benevolent and tender disposition of Soul as inclines us to do, not those Things only which the Laws of Common Justice require us to do, but moreover all such kind and obliging Offices as be­comes Creatures of the most compassionate Hearts, and God-like Tempers: To be affected with the sense of other Men's Wants, as well as our own; to pity them as our selves; to wish and promote their Good with [Page 22] such unfeigned Desires, and un­wearied Endeavours, as if our own Welfare were concern'd: And because the Lord Jesus vouchsafed to express a common Love to us all, we are to follow his most blessed Steps, in expres­sing our Charity to Mankind, as long as we live in the World; to Bless and Pray for, and to do good to our very Enemies; to offer them Terms of Accommo­dation; to give them Testimo­nies of a Reconcileable Temper; to encourage and provoke them to be Reconciled by our own Example; by shewing them our own Bowels, and by letting them see how kind, humble, meek, long-suffering, and patient we our selves are; and how ready to for­give them. Briefly to have such ardent Affections unto all Men, [Page 23] and especially to those who are of the Houshold of Faith, as to serve them willingly, not only with our Wishes, and Labours, and Sub­stance, but (when need requires) with our very Lives also. Tho' Life be so dear a matter, that Skin after Skin, and all that a Man hath he will give for it; yet upon great Occasions, and in pressing Circumstances, and for weighty and noble Ends, to be ready as the Lord Jesus was to die for o­thers, after all other Services done for them; this is to have that fervent, and perfect, and true Cha­rity, which the Christian Religion recommendeth to us above all Things.


2. The Quality and Extent of Christian Charity being thus sum­marily [Page 24] Explain'd, I proceed now in the second place, to consider those Motives and Reasons which serve to make it Practical.

Now to digest this Matter into as clear a Method, and under as few Heads as may be, I shall pro­pose these four Things in general to be considered.

  • 1. What great Good a Chari­table Temper doth to a Man's own Mind.
  • 2. How effectually it helps us to answer the Ends of the New Covenant.
  • 3. How near it brings us unto God even in this World.
  • 4. How it prepares and fits us for the Everlasting Happiness of another.

[Page 25] 1. What great Good a Chari­table Temper doth to a Man's own Mind; Though a Crown of Righteousness (a Glorious and Perfect Reward) be laid up and reserved for us against the Day of Judgment; yet all Virtue brings us something of a present Re­ward. As it cleanseth the Spirit from the Corruptions of the World, and from the Filthiness of the Flesh, so it replenisheth the Soul with the greatest Satisfa­ction and Pleasure; and by these means, as well the Holiness, as the Joy of a future State, begin­neth here. Now of those Gra­ces which at once purifie, and de­light the Mind, a Spirit of Cha­rity is One, and perhaps the Great­est. It rids the Soul of several Vices which affect the Consci­ence [Page 26] with the greatest Guilt, and therefore must of consequence bring the greatest Plague; Vices which Crucifie the very Soul, and make every one his worst Tor­mentor; as Pride, Envy, Malice, and such like. These are pecu­liarly called the Sins of the very Devil; and therefore it is fit they should carry a Hell with them. It is impossible for such scurvy Qualities, to reign in a Breast where a Charitable Heart lies. Kind Spirits are not wont to be Haughty, Imperious, and Tyrani­cal; especially towards those they really love: Much less are they wont to be griev'd, and afflicted at their Prosperity; or to seek their Hurt. Such Vices are alto­gether inconsistent with Charity; and they always grow out of ill­nature, like Nettles out of a [Page 27] Dunghil; and methinks Men should shun them the rather, be­cause they always sting the ve­ry Mind that is their Nursery. Hearts that are the proper and kindly Soyl of Virtue, are never sensible of this Smart; because they are free from the Causes of it; and were the insides of Men to be throughly discovered, I am confident it would be found, that none are so easie and quiet with­in, so satisfied in their Minds, as those that have generous Affecti­ons for all Mankind: If in such Breasts there be any Dissatisfacti­ons, it is because their kind En­deavours are not successful; or else because they are not able to do all the Good they would. Un­charitable Wretches know not the Pleasure of doing Good; nor what Peace and Complacency re­turns [Page 28] into ones Bosom by every Charitable Action; nay some­times by a bare Charitable Pur­pose and Design, when some cross Accident hinders the Execution of it. Indeed, these inward Com­forts cannot be sensibly known, but by Experience; and therefore Arguments of this kind may seem very feeble and impertinent to those who love themselves only, and delight themselves in ways of Frowardness.

Yet the most unexperienc'd People may observe very much to this purpose, from two palpable Instances we find in the Holy Scripture; the one in Haman, the other in St. Paul: Setting aside the Story of Joseph's Advance­ment, we meet not with such an Account as that of Haman; of his Riches; of his Honour, and [Page 29] of his great Power, as well over Ahasuerus himself, as over all his Subjects. And yet his Pride, En­vy, and Malice (the Vices I men­tion'd before) over-top't, and bore down all this Greatness: One Thing he wanted still, and that was the Compliment of Morde­cai's Knee; and for want of that, nothing would satisfie him but the Destruction of poor Mordecai himself, and all the Jews; Rancour and Revenge in the highest de­gree, and that which argued Pains, Griefs, Agonies, and Tortures in his Mind, of the highest degree too. So that though the mise­rable Wretch boasted of his Wealth, Glory, and Authority over all the King's Princes; yet, said he, all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King's gate, Esth. 5. 13. [Page 30] Strange Torment surely, that No­thing could allay; that all his Splendor was nothing in compa­rison of; that neither the Gallows he had provided for Mordecai was any thing, if compared with the Rack in his own Breast.

A Spirit of Charity would have saved him all that expensive Vexa­tion, which his ill Nature put him to, amidst all his Honours: Half that Charitable Temper, which was such a great Blessing to St. Paul amidst all his Troubles; no meer Man ever loved the Souls of People more than he: None was ever more Compassionate to­wards a needy World. None that fled over Land and Seas, with that vigorous Zeal to serve Man­kind, as St. Paul did; none that suffered so much for his great Charity. A short Inventory of [Page 31] his Hardships he himself gives us, 2 Cor. 11. In Labours abundant, in Stripes above measure, in Prisons frequent, in Deaths often; of the Jews five times received I forty Stripes save one: Thrice was I beaten with Rods, once was I Stoned, thrice I suffered Shipwrack, a Night and a Day I have been in the Deep: In Journeying often; in Perils of Wa­ters; in Perils of Robbers; in Pe­rils by my own Country-men; in Pe­rils by the Heathen; in Perils in the City; in Perils in the Wilder­ness; in Perils in the Sea; in Pe­rils among false Brethren.

Throughout this whole Series of Hardships, we never find the Apostle cast down, or disconso­late; but on the contrary, always Glorying of his Sufferings, and of his Sufferings only; as Sorrow­ful, [Page 32] (said he) yet always rejoycing, 2 Cor. 6. 10. And the Ground of his Rejoycing was this, the Testi­mony of his Conscience, that in sim­plicity and godly sincerity he had had his conversation in the world; 2 Cor. 1. 12. The comfortable Consideration, that with an up­right and honest Heart he had endeavoured to serve Mankind; and to express his great Care of the Churches, which were com­mitted to his Charge.

Plutarch could observe, ‘That neither Riches, nor Honour, nor Power, [...]. nor any thing else, can bring a Man such Serenity and Divine Pleasure, as a pure Soul: A Soul from whence good Actions flow, like a gentle and limpid Stream from a clean Fountain. Though Mis­fortunes from abroad may af­fect [Page 33] such a Man, yet compara­tively they are not sharp, and right Reason can help to take away that little Acrimony that is in them. It is (saith Plutarch) an evil Conscience that is truly do­lorous and galling; it is this that creates Griefs from within; Griefs that are more heavy and afflictive than any Accidents from without: As a Feavour in the Blood is far worse, and much more troublesom, than the Heat of the Sun. And therefore the true way to have solid Peace within, is to have Minds full of Probity; and in stead of entertaining any dishonest Purposes, to be always Virtuously disposed; and above all, to be kindly, and benevolently incli­ned, and to do all the Good that lieth in our power.’

[Page 34] 2. One great Reason, why a benign and gracious Temper brings such Advantage to ones own self is, because it is a Ray of the Divine Nature; so that by searching into his Heart, the Cha­ritable Person cannot but be com­forted with an humble and mo­dest Assurance, that he hath much of God himself in him. And this is the second Thing we are to consider, for the exciting of a Spirit of Charity in us; how near it brings us to the ever-blessed God, even while we stay in the World. God is Love, saith the Scripture, 1 John 4. 8. Not only because all Love is of God, as the Origine and Fountain of it; but because it is one of the infinite Beauties, and Glories of his Nature; so essential to him, [Page 35] and so perfect in him, that he is the most transcendent and excel­lent Exemplar of Love; made up of it so, that he may be well cal­led, Love it self. By reason of this Love, God extendeth his Goodness to all his Creatures, and especially to Mankind; in­tending and ordering all Things here for their Good: Threatning and Admonishing, Commanding and Forbidding, Assisting and Strengthning, Cherishing and Cha­stizing them, in order still to that great End, their own Good; and in all the Methods and Dispensa­tions of his Providence, expres­sing his Mercy and Tenderness towards us, as it is most agreeable to his Wisdom, and as far as it is consistent with the Honour and Authority of a Lawgiver. Nor are the wicked'st Men denied a [Page 36] Share and Portion of his Good­ness. For though by the Rules of strict Justice, he might with­out any more ado consign them to everlasting Misery, and cut them off in the midst of their Impieties; yet he offers to all Peace and Reconciliation in, and by, and for the sake of his Son, whom he sent into the World to seek and to save that which was Lost, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting Life: And, to express the sincerity of his Desire, that none should perish, but that all should come to Repentance; he daily shews the Riches of his Goodness, and Forbearance, and Long-suffering; that thereby he may lead Wicked Men to Repen­tance, not to be repented of. Nay, they have their Portion, even of [Page 37] the Things of this Life too; the the Rebel, and the Runagate, is taken care of, as well as the Heir; nor are any cast out of the hands of that Provident and Supreme Governour of all Things, who causeth his Sun to shine upon the evil and upon the good, and sendeth Rain on the just and the unjust, Mat. 5. 45.

This great Goodness of God towards us all, our Saviour him­self makes use of, as a powerful Argument and Motive for our Charity and Tenderness towards one another. And truly, if we consider the infinite Perfections of God, by reason whereof he stand­eth not in the least need of any, nor of all his Creatures; the infinite Greatness of his Majesty above us, and its Distance from us: By reason whereof, he might [Page 38] look down upon us with Scorn and Contempt; His infinite Power over us, by reason whereof, he might easily cast us down into the bottomless Lake upon any Provocation: His infinite Holiness and Excellency, by reason whereof every Provocation comes to be of infinite Demerit; and toge­ther with all this, if we consider the infinite disproportion that is between the Sins acted against him, and the Faults we commit against one another, who stand all of us upon the same Level, and need all of us each others Assi­stance; nor have we any Power over one another, but what is gi­ven, and precarious: Nor pro­voke one another but with Offen­ces that are Reciprocal: And af­ter all our mutual Follies, are be­holding to one another too, as [Page 39] well for asking, as for accepting each others Pardon; If, I say, we consider all this, we must needs discover a great deal of Force in this Argumentation, that since God so loveth us, so pitieth us, so forbeareth us, so expresseth his Mercy and Compassion to us; certainly we ought also, and the rather by much, to Love, and Pity, and forbear and shew Com­passion and Kindness unto one another. Love and bless, and do good even to them that hate you; that you may be the Children of your Father which is in Heaven, saith the great Exemplar of Charity, Matth. 5. 45. By the Children of God are meant, (according to the usual Scripture Sense of the Phrase) such People as partake of the Divine Nature; such as resem­ble God, and are like-minded; [Page 40] such as express a Similitude of those imitable Perfections, which are most eminently in Him: For, as our Dispositions and Tempers are, so is our Alliance. Thus our Saviour told those wicked Jews in John 8. 44. Ye are of your Father the Devil; And the Reason was, because they did the Deeds, and the Lusts of the Devil, were of Devilish Spirits and Inclinations, resembled the Devil himself by their Wickedness. Some Sins (as I told you before) are ascribed unto the Devil after a more pecu­liar manner; as Pride, the Sin that cast him out of Heaven: And Lying; for which reason he is called a Lyer, and the Father of it, Joh. 8. 44. And so Slandering; for which reason he is called the Accuser of the Brethren, Rev. 12. 10. So also are Envy and Malice the [Page 41] Devil's Sins; for which reason he is called a Murderer from the begin­ning, John 8. 44. And is com­pared to a Lion that walketh up and down, seeking whom he may de­vour, 1 Pet. 5. 8. Now, though People that are of such wicked Spirits, may flatter themselves with a Perswasion that they be­long to God; yet in God's own account, you see, they are of the Devil's Family, the Devil's Chil­dren, and consequently Heirs of the Devil's Damnation; because their Minds are of the same Ve­nomous Temper, and of the same ugly Hue and Complexion, as if they had been Cast in the same Mould.

For the same Reason, they whose Souls are pure and upright, full of Grace and Goodness, are called the Sons of God, because [Page 42] they communicate of his Divine and Perfect Nature, and resemble him in the Qualities and Disposi­tions of their Minds, as Children are wont to resemble their Pa­rents, in the Features and Linea­ments of their Bodies. Nor can any Man resemble him better, than by a kind and benevolent Disposition. Because the Scrip­ture doth up and down, represent this as one of God's chief and most glorious Perfections; a Per­fection wherein he himself seems most of all delighted: And there­fore our Saviour discoursing of Mercy, Charity, and an Universal Love, Matth. 5. singles out this as the strongest Argument to inforce the Practice of it; that we may be the Children of our Father in Heaven; and that we may be perfect, even as our Father which is [Page 43] in Heaven is perfect. 'Tis not any formal Professions that bring us near unto God; 'tis not any dry Superstitions, or empty Performan­ces; much less is it a furious Zeal for Notions and Opinions, (alas! all this may be consistent with a Devilish Temper and Mind:) No; it is a God-like Temper; a Divine frame of Heart; and chiefly, a kind, charitable, and beneficent Disposition: It is this, this, that ties us into a strict Relation to God, into such a close Fellow­ship and Communion with him, as maketh us his indeed: As that Disciple observes, whom the Lord Jesus particularly loved, and who breathed nothing but Love him­self: 1 Joh. 4. 7. Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God: And again, V. 12. If we love one another, God [Page 44] dwelleth in us, and his Love is per­fected in us. And again, V. 13. Hereby we know, that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit; (meaning that Tem­per and Affection which is so emi­nent in him. And again, V. 16. God is Love, and he that dwelleth in Love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.

Here then Men should lay their Hands upon their Hearts, and examine how they beat; what they are full of; and how they are affected: If Wrath and Bitter­ness, Malice and Rancour, Spight­fulness and Uncharitableness, dwel­in them; If Self-love, Unmerci­fulness and Cruelty hardens them; if the Wants and Miseries of o­thers make no, or very little Im­pressions upon them; these are very bad Symptoms, plain Signs, that there is very little, if any thing [Page 45] at all of God in such Hearts; no­thing but what savours of a nar­row Spirit, of a mean, sordid, and bruitish Nature. Humane, Rational Souls should have more exalted Faculties; Souls that are of a Noble and Heavenly Extraction; Souls that are so many Rays of the Di­vinity; What can so become such Beings, as Thoughts that are be­neficial like the Sun-beams? Affe­ctions that are as large as the Universe? Motions and Opera­tions, like his who was the Re­deemer of Souls; whose whole Life was, to go about doing Good? His Miracles, as well as his Ser­mons and Laws, were Charity: And by those Charitable Works he shewed himself to be the Son of God; Nor may we think, we can give the World, or our own selves, any satisfactory Evidence [Page 46] of our Relation to his Father or him, but by Works of Charity as his were; by doing Good to every Man as it lies in our power, with­out Discrimination; by Intreating them gently; by bearing Wrongs and Indignities with meekness of Spirit; by putting our Cause into God's hands without Self-revenge; by blessing and wishing well to our very Enemies; and by expressing our sincere Affections to all Mankind.

3. These Things do naturally carry a great deal of Force with them: So that if no Obligations were upon us from any Laws to this purpose, the Divine Excel­lence of these Actions would Re­commend them to our Practice, because they are God-like Actions; and therefore must needs be of the highest Excellence in their [Page 47] own Nature. But besides this, we are to consider yet, in the third place, how helpful a Spirit of Cha­rity is to us, in answering the great Ends of the New Covenant. The grace of God (or the Gospel) that bringeth Salvation, hath ap­peared unto all Men, teaching us, that denying Ʋngodliness and World­ly Lusts, we should live soberly, righ­teously and godly in this present World, Tit. 2. 11, 12. Which shews, that the design of the Evan­gelical Covenant is, to reclaim Mankind to the Love and Pra­ctice of all manner of Virtue. Because God is a most perfect Being himself, of infinite Good­ness and Rectitude in his Nature; his blessed Purpose is to imprint upon our Souls his own Image, according to the Capacity of our finite Faculties. And in order [Page 48] hereunto he hath given us by his own Son, (the brightness of his own Glory) not only the most excellent Promises; all confirm'd and seal'd with his Blood upon the Cross; but moreover the most perfect Example, and the most perfective Duties. Now of these Duties, this of Universal Charity and Love is the Chief. For Love being such a Divine Affection, the Fruits of it must needs be Divine too, if it be sin­cere and zealous. As for Instance; If our Love to God be pure and hearty, it cannot but move us to a solicitous Care, of doing no­thing that is repugnant to God's Will and Holiness; because this Affection is naturally attended with an earnest desire to please and imitate its Object, or the Party we intirely love. So also, [Page 49] if a Man's Love to himself be Rational and Regular, it must needs put him upon doing him­self all the Good, especially all the Spiritual Good, he can; be­cause his Spiritual Part, the Soul, is to live for ever, and therefore requires his tenderest Care, that it may be everlastingly Happy. The same Inclination doth true Cha­rity work in us towards all other Men; to be beneficial to them likewise, for it always operates ac­cording to the nature of the Thing, and according to the condition of the Object. It cannot possibly be of any advantage to our Ma­ker, because he is out of the reach of our Charity, and too high for it. Can a Man be profi­table unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art [Page 50] righteous? Or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy Ways perfect? Job 22. 2, 3. And again; If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? Or what receiveth he of thy hand? Job 35. 7. No; all our Good­ness extendeth not to him, Ps. 16. 2. He neither needs it, nor is he ca­pable of being benefited by it; because he is infinitely perfect and happy in himself. But our Love to God hath this Effect; it makes us admire and adore him, serve and worship, and endeavour to please him, and to be like unto him; and so, it is an Instrument of Godliness, as well as of Sobriety and Righteousness. In this respect it may be said to be a Fulfilling of the whole Law, even the first Table of it; though indeed it serves most directly to Fulfil the Second. And thus the Apostle argues, [Page 51] Rom. 13. 8, 9, 10. He that loveth ano­ther, hath fulfilled the Law: For this, Thou shalt not commit Adultery; thou shalt not Kill; thou shalt not Steal; thou shalt not bear false Wit­ness; thou shalt not Covet; and if there be any other Commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this say­ing, viz. Thou shalt love thy Neigh­bour as thy self. Love worketh no ill to his Neighbour; therefore Love is the fulfilling of the Law. We cannot be Injurious to our own Souls, or to the rest of Mankind, or to God himself, but it must proceed from the want of those enlarged Hearts, and those fer­vent, and tender Affections, which the Gospel requires of us all. Here then we should employ our great­est Pains, and use our utmost En­deavours, to kindle in us a true Spirit of Charity: For it is the end [Page 52] of the Commandment, 1 Tim. 1. 5. And because it is the most Perfective Grace, the Scripture sets it above all Things, even above Faith and Hope; 1 Cor. 13. 13. Now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity, these three; but the greatest of these is Charity. The great­est, not only because it is most pro­fitable to others, which the other two Virtues are not; for Faith and Hope keep at home; a Man belie­veth for himself, and hopeth for himself; nor is ones Neighbour the better for them: 'Tis this, that is the active, the dispensing Grace, that walks about doing good, and every one fares the better for it:) But 'tis the greatest Virtue too, because of the three, it is the most beneficial to ones self also: It gives him solid Reasons for his Hope, which otherwise would be groundless; and Perfection to his [Page 53] Faith, which otherwise would be fruitless, and consequently unpro­fitable even at home: The Hy­pocrite's Hope shall perish; And his Trust shall be as a Spider's Web; Job 8. 13, 14. A sorry weak Thing to bear ones Heart up, especially on a Death-bed. For Hope, if it be right, must be built upon some Promise, nor can it go further than the Promise it self goes; for if God hath not promised me his Mercy, how can I reasonably hope for it? Now it is plain, that there is no Promise of that Nature, but on condition of Charity on our part. The Texts are so clear, that they need no Comment: 1 John 3. 10. In this the Children of God are manifested, and the Chil­dren of the Devil: whosoever doth not Righteousness is not of God, nei­ther he that loveth not his Brother. [Page 54] And again, V. 14. He that loveth not his Brother, abideth in Death, (or is in a deadly State.) And again, V. 15. Whosoever hateth his Brother, is a Murderer; and ye know, that no Murderer hath Eternal Life abiding in him. Nay, to shew how extensive our Charity must be, for our hopes of Mercy at God's hands, our Saviour himself hath passed this Decretory Sen­tence, That there is no Mercy for us, unless we shew it our selves, and that even to our Enemies; Mat. 6. 15. If ye forgive not Men their Trespasses, neither will your Fa­ther forgive your Trespasses.

As for Faith, great Things in­deed are spoken of it in the Scrip­ture; but withal we are told, that without Works it is dead; such a spiritless, empty Thing without a Life of Virtue, that it no more [Page 55] deserves the Character of a sa­ving Faith, than a dead Carkass deserves the Name of a Man. Faith, as it is distinguished from Works, signifies here an Act of the Understanding, whereby a Man owns the Authority of Jesus Christ, and assents to his Do­ctrines. Now this Assent of the Mind is required, in order to the Practice of Christ's Religion, be­cause it is not imaginable how People can be brought to obey his Laws sincerely and universally, unless they be first perswaded in their Hearts, that he was the Son of God, the very Christ, sent by his Father from Heaven to help Mankind thither. This puts a Divine Stamp upon the whole Christian Religion; it gives it an unquestionable Credit, and ren­ders every the most difficult Ar­ticle [Page 56] of it worthy of all Accepta­tion, because it came from God, and was revealed by the Son of God; and therefore must needs be infallibly true. Upon this ac­count, the belief of Christ's Au­thority and of the Truth, and certainty of his Religion, is the first thing necessary: And for this Reason it was, that his first Disci­ples took such pains every where to prove him to be the very Christ, and inculcated the neces­sity of Faith in him: For this was the ready way to bring the World in Obedience to him; and no­thing but this could prevail with Men, to observe Christ's Institu­tion with such strictness, as the Primitive Christian did, and for the sake of it to venture and un­dergo upon all Occasions the ut­ter loss of all.

[Page 57] Faith then being required to produce Obedience, as the proper Means in order to this noble End, cannot possibly stand us in stead, if it be only a Notion in our Heads; if it be a liveless and un­fruitful Perswasion; if it be naked and alone; if it hath not that ef­fect and power upon our Souls, as to bring on the Love and Pra­ctice of those other Virtues and Graces, for the Production where­of it hath been all along intended. Now of those Virtues and Graces, Charity is the very chiefest; this must accompany our Faith, to make it as it should be, such a Faith as we may safely rely on; and therefore St. Paul describing that Assent of the Mind which availeth indeed, calls it, Faith which worketh by love, Gal. 5. 6. Or, as some Learned Criticks would ra­ther [Page 58] render it, Faith which is con­summate and perfected by Charity. The truth is, all our Notions are very imperfect Things without this; and though these Notions be never so right and Orthodox, yet are they vastly short of our true Duty till they reach our Hearts, and make us to open our Bowels towards other Men, and to exer­cise our Hands in Offices of Love. And therefore, since without a Spirit of Charity nothing will a­vail us, nor answer the great Ends of Christ's Religion, no not our very Faith, (according to that of the Apostle, 1 Cor. 13. Though I have all Knowledge, and all Faith, and give away Goods, Body, Life and all, and have not Charity, it pro­fiteth me nothing: Since, I say, it is thus) it is of infinite Concern­ment to us all, so to subdue our [Page 59] Minds and Passions, as to approve our selves in this respect the hear­ty Disciples of a meek and chari­table Jesus. Many Voluminous Disputations have been written, which might have been better spared about Faith, and Works, and Justification, whether we are justified by the one, or the other, or by both; and great Endea­vours have been used to Recon­cile St. Paul and St. James upon this Point: Rather I might say, to set them at Variance; for their Sense is the same touching the ne­cessity of Works Evangelical; as Piety, Humility, Meekness, Pati­ence, and the like; and very plain­ly and particulary upon the Point of Charity. Here the most vul­gar Eye may see their clear Agree­ment: In Jesus Christ neither Cir­cumcision availeth any thing, nor [Page 60] Ʋncircumcision, but Faith which worketh by Love, saith St. Paul, Gal. 5. 6. And, He shall have Judgment without Mercy, that hath shewed no Mercy, saith St. James, Jam. 2. 13. Therefore in a Case, that is so positively and fully de­cided, we should leave Contro­versie, and fall to Practice; and study how to be fruitful in good Works, rather than how to make our Brains Prolifick: This is the right way of performing the Con­ditions of the Evangelical Cove­nant, and of bringing Peace and Comfort to our own Minds. I am sure when we come to die, it will turn to far better account for our poor Souls, than all the Di­sputes, which we shall leave be­hind us; and which we shall leave too, with this great Question which perhaps will never be de­termin'd, [Page 61] Whether Men have ma­naged them with as much Truth as Uncharitableness?

4. Fourthly, A Charitable Tem­per serves to prepare and fit us for the Everlasting Happiness of another Life. Many Virtues are required to dispose us for the En­joyment of that Happiness, to make us capable of it; to render us meet to be partakers of the Inhe­ritance of the Saints in Light, Col. 1. 12. Neither will the De­crees, nor the Power, nor the Mer­cy of God, bring us to that Frui­tion, without due Qualifications on our part; because there can be no true Happiness but where there is a Correspondence and Suitableness between the Mind and the Thing; if a Man be not pleased with what he Enjoys, nor [Page 62] finds any delightful Relish in it; it is impossible for him to be hap­py by enjoying it; nor can Hea­ven it self be a place of Pleasure to those, whose Minds have as little Taste of those Divine Satis­factions, as a vitiated Palate hath of the most pleasant Meats and Drinks.

To prepare our selves for those Delights, it is necessary to trans­form our Souls into the love of them now; and to accustom our selves now; to the familiar and delightful Practice of those Virtues, wherein the Felicity of another Life doth really consist: Of which Virtues, a charitable Disposition is one, and a very great one; be­cause we shall be sure to carry that Disposition with us out of this World to continue with us everlastingly, and to make us hap­py [Page 63] indeed in the enjoyment of a suitable Society of Blessed Spirits which are all made up of Love. Charity never faileth, saith the Apo­stle, 1 Cor. 13. 8. Whether there be Prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be Tongues, they shall cease; whether there be Knowledge, it shall vanish away: But Charity endu­reth for ever; it is an inseparable Glory of the Souls of just Men made perfect. And this is ano­ther Reason, why Charity is set above Faith and Hope, because it is of infinite Duration: As it is the most beneficial, so it is the most lasting Virtue. Faith is the Evidence (or firm Perswasion) of Things not yet seen, Heb. 11. 1. And when we come to behold God Face to Face, it will be no longer Faith, but Vision. And so Hope is the expectation of Things [Page 64] that are future; and when we come to the actual Possession of them, it will be no longer Hope, but Fruition or Enjoyment. But Love is of an unchangeable Na­ture, nor will it ever cease, because it is a Ray of the Immutable and Everlasting God. This is the Hap­piness of Heaven, that though there be different Ranks and Or­ders of Angels; different States of Beautified Spirits, different De­grees of Glory: And though God himself be infinitely exalted above all; yet Love is the Uni­versal Principle and Perfection, which unites God, and all his Glo­rious Creatures with him, into one inviolable Communion.

This being the State of the other World, how can we be pre­pared for the Enjoyment of it, or be fit to take pleasure in it, unless [Page 65] we be Connaturaliz'd to it by a correspondence and agreeableness of Temper? Some thoughtful and wise Philosophers among the old Heathens went upon this Principle, that all Happiness con­sisteth in the Perfection of Nature. And they did not only believe, ‘That the Soul is Immortal, and shall find the Rewards of Simptic. in Epicte [...]. Virtue, after its depar­ture from the Body; But be­lieved too, That its Felicity after Death lieth in such a perfection of its Faculties, and Powers, as is most suitable to a Rational Being: That is, in perfectly knowing every Thing which it is capable of knowing; and in perfectly loving and doing Things that are most Excellent.’ These are great Notions from Men that had not the benefit of Divine Revela­tion: [Page 66] Nor do we find any thing in them, but what is highly con­sistent with the Christian Philoso­phy, for when that which is perfect is come, we shall be like God him­self in the Rectitude and Perfe­ction of our Nature, according to the Capacities of Created Be­ings: And Charity, being the greatest and most God-like Virtue, every perfected Soul must needs be conformable to the Divine Na­ture by it; which yet is not pos­sible for any Soul to be, but by exercising in this Life all those good Acts, which serve to form it unto a Charitable Temper. For this Temper is acquired as other Habits are, by the constant Repe­tition of Actions; which are therefore to be our Care and Busi­ness in this World, because Hea­ven is a place not for the begin­ning, [Page 67] but for the consummating of a Life of Virtue: Nor can Death so alter and change a Man's whole State, as to furnish his Soul with Inclinations and Qualities, quite contrary to those it contra­cted in the Flesh; so that if we be not charitably affected now, we do but flatter our selves with vain and lying Hopes of a Blessed Eternity.

Though I have the Gift of Pro­phecy, and understand all Mysteries, and all Knowledge, and though I have all Faith, so that I could re­move Mountains, and have no Cha­rity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my Goods to feed the Poor, and though I give my Body to be burned, and have not Charity, it pro­fiteth me nothing; saith the Apo­stle, 1. Cor. 13. 2, 3. For as it is [Page 68] God's Will and Purpose, that Un­charitable Souls shall not by any means come into his Presence, so the very Nature of the Thing renders their Access impossible; because they are not fit to be Par­takers of those Pleasures, which are at God's right hand for ever­more. Hatred and Malice, Ran­cour and Revenge, Spightfulness and Envy, are the Works of Hell, and the Dispositions of those who are going apace thither; nor are they fit to be in any Society, but that of Devils and damned Spi­rits, to whom they are already a-kin by Vice, and into whose Company they are prepared to be gathered by an assimilation and likeness of Nature. Upon this account it concerns us as much as our Everlasting Happiness is worth, by all possible Acts of [Page 69] Charity to bring our Minds to such a loving Frame and Genius, as, when we die, may be suitable to the State and Condition of Heaven.

'Tis true, some particular Bran­ches of Charity will cease there, because there will be no need of them among the Blessed. There will be no need of Alms-giving, because in Heaven there are no manner of Wants. There will be no need of Mutual Forgive­ness, because in Heaven there are no Injuries and Affronts: Nor will there be any need of bearing with one another's Infirmities, be­cause in Heaven there is neither Sin, nor Error: However, these and the like Acts of Charity must be performed and repeated by us here on Earth, because in their kind they all serve as Means in [Page 70] order to the main End; to cleanse the Mind from all Leaven of Ma­lice and Naughtiness, to raise and improve the Soul by degrees, to perfect it insensibly by an Univer­sal Love, and to produce in it a true, Heavenly Temper, though they be of no further use to us, when once we come to the actual Possession of an Heavenly State. To illustrate this a little by a fa­miliar Similitude: In the training up of a Youth in the ordinary course of Learning, many lesser Rules are necessary in the begin­ning; a long Method, great Read­ings, many Observations, and va­rious sorts of Exercises, are neces­sary in the Progress; and all these help in their kind to improve ones Parts insensibly, and to make at last a compleat Scholar, though in the course of his Studies some [Page 71] of these Things are apt to drop out of his Memory: And when he comes to be a Man, and a Man of great Knowledge and Judg­ment, many of them are quite forgotten and lost; because they cease from being of any further use, the Practice of them is no longer necessary; but yet the Noble Effect, which by the for­mer Practice of them was pro­duced, doth remain to the last; namely, an Understanding now polished and perfected to a very high pitch by an Universal Know­ledge: The subservient Rules and Method are laid aside, and gone, many of them; but the Perfe­ction of the main Faculties, and the Improvement of his Parts, holds as long as his Life conti­nues. It is much after this man­ner, that a Man is trained up, and [Page 72] disciplined into a perfect Saint. Several sorts of Charity are re­quired of us now, which are pro­per to a Militant State, to a needy, suffering Condition; and there­fore they must cease of course, when we come to a State of Bliss and Glory.

Nevertheless they are at present wonderfully Advantageous to us, because they do more or less all contribute towards Perfection; they all serve in their kind, and in some measure, to bring the Soul to an habit of Universal Love, and so to fit it for that blessed Place above, into which nothing that is Uncharitable can enter.

By the Co-operation of every Charitable Act, the Soul is bet­ter'd by degrees, though we may not perceive its gradual Proficien­cy every moment: It is the more [Page 73] and more improved and height­ned towards Heaven; and the more and more accomplished for it still; so that when it departs out of the Body, a State of per­fect Peace, and perfect Harmony, and perfect Love, is the most pro­per for it; nay, (if I may so speak) the only Natural State for it to be in: And then the Soul finds the Noble Effects of every Work of Love; the Divine Ha­bits which every Work helped to produce, and the Unspeakable Perfection every Work did pre­pare it for; though in its flight to Heaven it droppeth some Works, and leaves them behind it, as the Prophet did his Man­tle.

Men talk at random when they speak of going to Heaven with­out a Charitable Temper: they [Page 74] may as well speak of seeing the Lord without Holiness; for Cha­rity is one great part of Holiness. And therefore our great Care must be, to mould our Hearts into such a Frame and Condition, that we may be fit and agreeable Company for the Glorious Family of Love. And this is not to be done, but by using and accustom­ing our selves to the constant Practice of Universal Charity now. For Habits are gotten by many Repeated Acts; and to per­form the several Offices of Cha­rity is, both the effectual Means of gaining a Spirit of Charity, and a plain Argument and Token too, that there is such a Spirit in us, especially when those Performan­ces and Acts are more and more abundant.


3. Which brings me to the third Thing, that in the begin­ning of this Discourse I proposed to shew; namely, the Way and Manner after which our Christian Charity is to be expressed. For those Expressions are manifold and various; and those People are mightily deceived, who re­strain and limit all Charity to Alms-giving.

That indeed is one Expression of Charity, when our Alms come from a Charitable Heart; for if that be wanting, all our Alms loseth the Name of Charity. Though I give all my Goods to feed the Poor, and have not Charity, it profiteth me nothing, 1 Cor. 13. 3. You see, that in the Apostle's ac­count, [Page 76] Alms-Deeds may be with­out Charity; that is, when Vanity or Ostentation is the Principle from whence they flow. But though they come from a right Principle, from a kind and com­passionate Heart, yet are they but a little part of Charity; as we find by St. Paul's Description of its several Branches in the place above-mentioned.

Now because we cannot fol­low a better Guide than St. Paul, I shall proceed upon this Subject according to those Noble Chara­cters which he himself gives there of Charity; intending as I go along to discourse of those Things after a particular and distinct man­ner; which the holy Apostle hath laid together within the compass of a few, but very significant and comprehensive Expressions.

[Page 77] 1. And there are two Chara­cters given of Charity, in refe­rence to Anger. The first teach­eth us to be very Slow to Anger-Charity (saith St. Paul) suffereth long; Meaning, that a Charitable Man is not presently moved out of a calm and composed State.

2. The second teacheth us to moderate our Passion, that it may not swell beyond a due measure, when there is any just and suffi­cient cause of Resentment, Vers. 5. Charity, [...], is not easily provoked; so indeed it is render'd in our Common Translation; but rather it should be render'd, Is not highly provoked, or exasperated; Meaning, that for Charity-sake no Man must suffer, no not any just Anger to turn into Fury, so as [Page 78] to make him either to meditate Revenge, or to fall into indecent Rages.

Now though these be two di­stinct Subjects, the one touching the Rise, the other touching the Progress of this Passion; yet because both may easily fall under one Consideration, I shall speak of both at this time, and in this place, as far as they relate to the Sub­ject Matter of Christian Charity; leaving some other Things more particularly to be consider'd, when I shall have opportunity and lei­sure to form some Practical Dis­courses more upon other Chri­stian Virtues, and upon that of Meekness among the rest.

Anger is not Universally Evil; for the Apostle's Direction is, Eph. 4. 26. Be ye angry, and sin not: Which shews, that all manner of [Page 79] Anger is not sinful. But there are three sorts which are inconsi­stent with the Law of Charity, and very displeasing unto God.

First, Rash Anger; when a Man is apt to be soon offended, and to let his Passions take fire presently, not fairly examining the Nature and Circumstances of the supposed Provocation, nor consi­dering throughly, as he ought, whether there be just and reaso­nable cause for Displeasure. This is a wicked Disposition, that pro­ceeds from Pride, Capriciousness, and ill Nature; and it looks as if the froward Creature watched for his Neighbours Haltings, and wanted only an opportunity of Quarrelling; and took Delight and Pleasure in a Life of Conten­tion, and in rendring himself un­easie [Page 80] and vexatious to others. This is far from favouring of the true Spirit of Charity, especially as it is raised by the Law and Example of Jesus Christ, whose Love to us ought to be the Stan­dard, and Measure of our Cha­rity to one another. But besides this, the Effects which follow our unreasonable Passions are very hurtful and injurious, when Things are taken amiss rashly, and with such a quick hand. For we are all apt to be mistaken, and then most likely when Men's Actions are not permitted, to fall under our due Consideration: But we run away headlong, and in great hast upon indeliberate Apprehen­sions. In this case Innocence it self too often suffers; by reason that the Merits of the Cause are not calmly inquired into at the [Page 81] first, and Men are hardly perswa­ded to examine them afterwards, because few care to be thought guilty of an Error. By means hereof, a long Train of Mischief followeth; Passion still growing higher and hotter than at the first kindling. And therefore, when our Passions begin to be warm, we should have an Eye to the Fewel; consider the Cause which blows the Spark; give our selves time to think, and to think as candidly and favourably as we can, lest we go on to punish Men quite contrary to the Laws of Charity, and Justice too, not so much for their Crimes, as for our own false Presumptions; and if we would do this very careful­ly, that is, give room for Thought and favourable Consideration, be­fore we lift up the hand, it would [Page 82] both lessen the Passion, and either stop, or moderate the Effects of it.

Secondly; Though Anger be Just, in respect of its Cause; yet if it lasteth a longer time than it should, it is Sinful. The sooner our Resentments go out, the bet­ter it is for our selves, and others: And best of all when they die presently after they are conceiv'd; when a Man's Anger is like the Fool's Mirth, which Salomon com­pares to the crackling of Thorns on a Flame, that vanisheth in a few moments; for glowing Coals are very dangerous; the longer ones Displeasure continues, the more averse he is to Purposes and Ex­pressions of Charity; the stiffer in his Resentments, the more in­flexible, and the harder to be Re­conciled. [Page 83] That which should have been but a transient Fit, pre­cipitates in time, and setleth into a fixt Habit; and that ranckles and frets inwardly, and eateth so deep, and so venomously into the Bowels, that it proves a deadly Ulcer; and then it ends, as in the case of the Spleen, which was once a natural and innocent Infir­mity, but at last becomes a very painful and mischievous Disease. The Apostle therefore gives us all this Noble Rule of Charity; Let not the Sun go down upon your Wrath, Ephes. 4. 26. This looks as if it were a Branch of the Law of Nature: For Plutarch tells us of those ancient Pagans the Disciples of Pythagoras, Plutarch de Frat. amore. ‘That if there happen'd any Differences or Brawlings between them in the Day, their [Page 84] custom was to shake hands, and salute one another before the setting of the Sun.’ Anger is such a bruitish Thing, that they thought it unbecoming Men and Philosophers, to carry it in their Bosoms to Bed. But St. Paul's Reason was of a higher Nature; for the Evening was ever a time of Devotion; and we must part with our Passions before the close of the Day, lest a mixture of Ha­tred pollute our Evening Sacri­fice, and infect our Prayers, so as to turn them into an Abomina­tion. The Learned Grotius looks upon it as a Phrase, that was usual among the Hebrews, when they meant the putting any Matter off to a longer time: And so indeed we find it in Deut. 24. 15. At his day thou shalt give the Hireling his hire, neither shall the Sun go down [Page 85] upon it. Which is otherwise ex­press'd, though to the same effect, Lev. 19. 13. Thou shalt not defraud thy Neighbour, neither rob him, the Wages of him that is hired, shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. Well, though we suppose the Apostle's Expression to be Proverbial, yet Grotius reckons it an Application of that Law, Deut. 21. 23. That the Body of every Criminal that was hanged, was to be buried before night. And then St. Paul's Argument is the stronger still: For if Punishments inflicted by Publick Authority were not to continue till the Evening; much less may any Private Differences or Grudges hold till Sun-set.

Anger is for the most part a Criminal, and too often proves an Homicide; and 'tis good to [Page 86] throw it aside, and to commit it unto the Grave betimes: If we let it sleep with us, and not rid it quite out of the way, the next day's Sun will give it a new heat, and make it outrageous.

For Thirdly, This Passion doth many times grow and swell to such a bulk, that nothing will sa­tisfie it but Revenge: It riseth by degrees, if not quell'd in time, from Rash to Inordinate; from Inordinate to Implacable; from Implacable to Revengeful: And then is Anger sinful in the highest degree of all; when it breedeth Gall and Choler to that extremity, that the Stomach will not be sa­tisfied without a Glut of Revenge. This chiefly is that Bitterness and Wrath, which the Holy Scripture so severely condemneth: For it [Page 87] worketh not the Righteousness of God, Jam. 1. 20. It carrieth a Man beyond a possibility of doing Things that are right in God's Eyes; for its Designs and Actions are still mischievous, and there­fore it is direct Enmity against God and Man. Charity is quite forgotten, though the Wretches own Pardon can never be sealed without it. Justice is not heard, though it cry never so loud; The violent Creature considers not what is Just, but what may be Hurtful. The Laws of Christ are trampled under foot, though they were intended to sweeten all our Tempers, to smooth and soften our Spirits, to render us Humane, Meek, Patient, Gentle, Courteous, Merciful and Benign. The Revengeful Man stands in sturdy Opposition against all; nor [Page 88] is there any Mischief against his Inclinations, if it be within his power; especially if he can act it with safety. Neither are ones Fortunes, nor ones Credit, nor ones very Life secure, if within the reach of a Revengeful Arm. Nor do I think, that Humane Nature is capable of a more Wicked Disposition than this is; because it sticks at nothing which lies in its way, though never so Mean and Base, never so Disho­nourable and Scandalous, never so Barbarous and Cruel.

Therefore, to beget in our Hearts a Spirit of true Christian Charity, to Nourish and to Express it also, here we should begin to Subdue our Minds, to Tame and Govern our wild Passions, and to bring our selves to a due Tempe­rament and Composure: Consi­dering [Page 89] what a crowd of Business we are in here, and what a just­ling World this is, we must not expect, but that there will be Of­fences. But then we should re­member, that we are all of us one Man's Children; made of the same Flesh and Blood, subject to the same Follies and Infirmi­ties, and for that Reason are equal­ly obliged all of us, to take Pity and Compassion upon one ano­ther. There is not one of us, but stands in need of an Atone­ment: And the right way of making it is, not by Sacrificing our Chari­ty; (that will encrease our Guilt, in stead of being an acceptable Oblation;) but to serve the brui­tish part of our Nature, our Un­reasonable Passions, as the Anci­ents were wont to serve their Cattel; to bring them to the Fire, [Page 90] and make them Victims. But to speak more particularly: You see how many ways Anger becometh Sinful; and to keep our selves In­nocent, we must be very careful to express our Charity, by order­ing and behaving our selves Cha­ritably in every respect.

First, Govern the Beginnings of Passion, after a Charitable manner. Do not presently give up Reason to Spleen; nor cease to be Men, because you conceive your selves affronted. But Pause a while; Consider, Think, Exa­mine, Argue in your Minds with Calmness, with Deliberation, and with Candour. Before there be an Eruption of Choler, I wish People would attentively repeat the Lord's Prayer; it might be a good means of teaching them to [Page 91] be Charitable unto others, by be­ing Charitable unto themselves; and by begging God's Pardon for their own Trespasses, to forgive those that Trespass against them. It was the Advice of a Philoso­pher to Augustus, ‘That when he was moved, he should Read over the Greek Alphabet be­fore he spoke, or did any thing.’ For Men seldom do any thing in Anger, but what they do amiss, and aftewards repent of. Passion is an ill Councellor, and a worse Executioner: And therefore be­fore the Foot or the Hand stir­reth, 'tis good to Delay, and to take Time: In that Time, ask your selves a few Questions; Whether the Provocation be Just? Whether it be not Inconsiderable, and beneath the Cognizance of a Rational Creature, that ought to [Page 92] have a great Mind, above the reach of every Trifle? Whether the Offender be not a good Man in the main? Whether he him­self had no Provocations? Whe­ther he did it not through the In­firmity and Weakness of Humane Nature? Whether it was not Un­designed? Whether Ignorance, Imprudence, or Inadvertency, was not the Cause of it? Whether your Folly will not be as great as his, or perhaps greater? Whether he doth not Repent? Whether you do not intend to Repent your self? Why your Repentance should be considered, and not his? Whether your Patience, Lenity, and Greatness of Mind, will not oblige him, and make him love you? And, Whether the poor Man may not have one time or other a fair opportunity of making [Page 93] you Amends? 'Tis odds, but by that time these Things are well con­sidered, your Blood will cool, and be brought to a Temper; and then you will have gained a Bro­ther: Nay, you will have gained your self; you will have the bet­ter of your self; you will be a Winner in both respects; you will go off with the Comfort and Honour of a double Conquest, and each gotten with a very gen­tle Hand.

If, for want of due Considera­tion, the Fit continueth some hours, you must, Secondly, Go­vern the Fever so, as to keep it from being Hectick. There is a time for all Things under the Sun, and then it is high time for you to express your Charity when the Sun is ready to set. Cool [Page 94] Thoughts should be for the Night; and when the Hurries of the Day are over, we should leave off Wrath, and let go Dis­pleasure too. An Implacable Tem­per is very Offensive to the Divine Being, because it is utterly void of Charity, and true Religion. By the Laws of Christianity, every one hath a Right to his Neigh­bour's Mercy; especially if he be sorry for his Faults, and desires Forgiveness. That indeed every Offender is bound to do; and the least he can do, is to ask Par­don; yet that is enough, where the Injury is not so great, as to require Satisfaction. Repentance and Intreaties are Satisfaction suf­ficient in common and ordinary Cases: And when a Man hath gone thus far, he hath acted like a Christian, and may safely put [Page 95] his Cause into God's hand, who is an Avenger of all that are op­pressed with Wrong. But the Wretch that hardeneth his Heart, and stoppeth his Ear against Christian Application, contracteth Guilt in­tolerable: His own Sins are all bound; no outward Acts of Re­ligion avail him, for want of a Charitable Spirit within; his very Prayers are stopt; for how shall God hear him, that heareth not his Brother? He heapeth daily such a Load of Sins upon him­self, as makes him uncapable of the Mercy of that good God, who expects no other Satisfaction at our hands, for the Affronts against his own Majesty, but our Repentance and Prayers.

Let us hear our Great Law­giver, Luke 17. 3, 4. Take heed unto your selves; If thy Brother [Page 96] trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him: And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I Repent, thou shalt forgive him. Nay, I very much question, whe­ther a Christian may stay for an Offender's Repentance in every Case. For St. Matthew delivers us that Law of Charity without that Condition, Matth. 18. And if our Saviour's Love to us, be the Rule and Standard of our Love to one another; it seems to be our Duty, and that which best becomes the Generous Spirit of a Christian, to be beforehand with our Enemies, as Christ was with his: And even for the Offended Party to endeavour for Reconcilia­tion as He did; though but in hopes of their Repentance.

[Page 97] But, Thirdly, Let a Provoca­tion be never so just, and Resent­ments never so long-liv'd, we must above all Things beware of all Actions, and of all Intentions that are Revengeful. For Pro­ceedings of this kind are a most horrible Violation of the Laws of Religion, Charity, and Humanity also. They are for Mischief and Hurt only; and therefore Savour of the Devil's Temper, and Seal a Man up to Eternal Flames. It is a dreadful thing to want Bowels, I may call it, a great Curse; for a Man seldom comes to that high pitch of Inhumanity, as to have a hardned Heart, but by the Judg­ment of God, though the Work be a Man's own; yet so it is, that a Trade of Uncharitableness draws on Cruelty: So that by [Page 98] putting off the Christian, People learn by degrees to throw aside Man too; whereas the Design of our Religion is, rather to make us Angels. To this purpose we are strictly commanded, not to Avenge our selves; not to Re­compense Evil for Evil; but to overcome Evil with Good; to be Patient, Merciful, and Kind; if an Enemy Hunger, to Feed him; if he Thirst, to give him Drink; and thus to heap Coals of Fire upon his Head; not to hurt, but to in-tender and melt him.

I do not deny, but great Pru­dence and Caution may be used in Treating such as have done us considerable Wrongs: For tho' we are bound to forgive them, and to wish them well, as sincere­ly as we wish our selves, and to do them good Offices; yet we [Page 99] are not obliged to love them in an equal degree and proportion, nor to take them again into our Bosom, (at least not presently) who have already wounded us to the quick. However, all manner of Revenge is utterly unlawful. Revenge is, not when a Man punisheth an Offender justly, mo­derately, and with a charitable Purpose of doing him, or others Good, (so Parents punish their very Children, and Magistrates a Delinquent;) but when he thirst­eth to wreak, and execute his Ha­tred, only, or chiefly, to satisfie an enraged Mind, and with a cruel Design, to grieve, afflict, or tor­ment his Neighbour. This is extream Wickedness in a Chri­stian; a Thing that was Con­demned even by the wiser Hea­thens: Nay, that which was not [Page 100] permitted, the Jews themselves to do with their own private Hands, though some Things were permit­ted them for the Hardness of their Hearts: They were allowed in­deed to require an Eye for an Eye, and a Tooth for a Tooth; but this was to be done by the Magistrates Hand; the rest of the Jews had a common standing Law given them, Lev. 19. 18. Thou shalt not avenge (thy self,) nor bear any Grudge against the Children of thy People.

All manner of Revenge is now sinful, though it be sought even of Publick Authority; and that too under another Name, and with specious Colours. Christia­nity is the highest Improvement of Virtue; and the Laws of it are so strict and perfect, so sub­lime and pure, that all Tinctures [Page 101] of Malice and Ill-will are a Vio­lation of them. The Spirits of Christians should be above all such base Alloy; they should be refined and raised to that high and noble Pitch, and true Great­ness, as to pass by Affronts with Meekness and Charity, and (if it be possible) with Slightings and Disdain. This is that true Great­ness and Nobleness of Mind, which becomes us all. For it is rightly observed by Plutarch, and other old Moralists who have written against our Unreasonable and Foolish Passions, That Desires of Revenge proceed from a Defect in Nature, from Infirmity and Weakness; from something that is Little, and Mean; and there­fore those Creatures are most ad­dicted to it, which are most Con­temptible: Bees and Wasps, and [Page 102] those Infects among Mankind too, which therefore bite, and sting, and vex, and wound, because they are of low and fordid Spirits. ‘Wrath (saith Plutarch) doth some Things that are terrible, and some that Plutarch de ira cohib. are ridiculous: And therefore of all the Passions we are sub­ject to, this is the most hated, and the most despised.’ A plain Argument, that this Passion is of the meanest Extraction; that it proceeds from the most abject, degenerate, and fordid Natures; from Slime and Dirt that is utterly inconsistent with the Purity of Religion.

That Holy and Just One, who descended from Heaven to cleanse, raise, and perfect our Na­ture, took great care to rid us of all this Filth, by the noblest Precepts, [Page 103] and by his own (the noblest and most perfective) Example. The Infinite Excellence and Dignity of his Divine Nature, made all Of­fences against him swell to infi­nite degrees of Guilt, and conse­quently rendred the Actors of them liable to all the degrees of Punishment, which infinite Justice might have inflicted. And yet, with what evenness of Mind did he endure all Reproaches, Contu­melies, Disgrace, Stripes, Buffet­ings, Wounds, Nails, and Cross too? He bore all, though from the rudest, the vilest, the most malicious Hands, with Patience and Lenity; with Meekness and Self-denial; with Humility and Resignation; with Candour and the highest Charity to the last Gasp. When he was reviled, he re­viled not again; when he suffered, [Page 104] he threatned not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righ­teously, 1 Pet. 2. 23. And what was this for? Why (saith the Apostle) Christ suffered for us, leaving us an Example, that we should follow his Steps.


4. Having thus discoursed of the two Characters of Charity re­lating to Anger, and shew'd how we are to express this great Chri­stian Grace in each respect; by Commanding, Governing, and Moderating that mischievous Pas­sion, I proceed now to the Con­sideration of the next Property, which is called Kindness; Charity suffereth long, and is Kind: Mean­ing, that a Charitable Person is Compassionate, and Beneficent, [Page 105] both in Disposition and Actions; ready in every respect to do all the Good he can. By giving us a Description, St. Paul shews us a Duty; and he opens it particu­larly in another place, which seems to be an Explication of this whole Verse; Eph. 4. 31, 32. Let all Bitterness, and Wratb, and An­ger, and Clamour, and Evil-speak­ing, be put away from you with all Malice; And be ye kind one to ano­ther. The Greek Word in both places is in effect the same; and the Apostle's meaning is, that in stead of hating and maligning one another, we should be tenderly affected, and useful to each other, ready from our Hearts to do one another all the good Offices which lie in our Power. Now for the due Practising of this Matter, the Laws of Charity [Page 106] require of us these following Things.

1. That we have a true inward Sense of other Men's Wants and Afflictions. This is that which the Holy Scripture calls Tender-heartedness, Ephes. 4. 32. Bowels of Mercy, Colos. 3. 12. And, Having Compassion one of another, 1 Pet. 3. 8. By which Expressions is meant, that we should Sympa­thize with all that are in Distress, and have a Fellow-feeling of one anothers Afflictions. For where Men's Hearts are so hard, and crusty, that their Brethren's Cala­mities make little or no Impres­sions upon them, there it is im­possible for Charity to be so Kind­ly, Free, and Generous, as the Laws of Christianity do require. Whoso hath this World's good, and [Page 107] seeth his Brother hath need, and shutteth up his Bowels of Compassion from him; how dwelleth the Love of God (or of Man) in him? 1 John 3. 17. It holdeth true in all Cases, as well as in that of Alms-giving; for the Heart is the Spring of all our Actions: And it is as hard for Charity to take its due course and scope, where the Bowels are shut up, as for a River to run, where the Fountain is quite dried up: Rocks many times yield a Stream, but a Stony Heart never; to be sure, not that Liberal Supply of any kind, which the Necessities of miserable Ob­jects call for. Therefore those Old Philosophers were cruelly mistaken, who, though they were for outward Offices of Huma­nity; yet thought it unbecoming Reasonable Natures, and incon­sistent [Page 108] with a Man's Happiness, to be moved with Compassion in the Mind, and to be pierced with a sense of anothers Misfortunes. This is to commit a Rape upon all Mankind; to Ravish them of their Bowels. Nay, it doth not only stifle the very Principle of Charity, but it prepares a way too, for the greatest Injustice and Oppression: For how can he stick at any thing, though never so hard, that hath no sense of it? As long as the Affliction toucheth not himself, he feels no more his Neighbour's Smart, though he himself gives the blow, than a Flint, or an Adamant; and at such Hands neither is Mercy nor Justice to be expected. This was one great Reason, why the Son of God was pleased to take Humane Nature upon him; that he might [Page 109] be sensible of those our common Miseries, whereof a Spirit is not capable of feeling. In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his Brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High-Priest, Heb. 2. 17. We have not an High-Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our Infirmities, but was in all Points tempted (that is, tried by Afflictions, acquainted with Sorrows and Griefs,) like as we are, Hebr. 4. 15. His own through-sense of the Hardships of the World, made him the more willingly go about doing good during his abode in the Flesh, and the more merciful to Mankind now, since all Power in Earth and Heaven hath been put into his Hands. And this will be in us the Principle of right Christian Charity to one another; to be [Page 110] painfully affected with the Suffer­ings of others: And to this end we should use all possible means, to mould our Hearts rightly, to supple them into a very soft, ten­der, and compassionate Temper; and to let all moving Idea's sink deep into them, because we are the Body of Christ, and all of us Members of it, knit toge­ther by the same Ligaments of Faith and Hope; we should be all animated with the same Spirit of Charity too; we should have, as St. Paul speaks, 1 Cor. 12. 25, 26. The same Care one for another; so that if one Member suffer, all the Members should suffer with it.

2. But, Secondly, This is not enough, if it be all. 'Tis poor kindness just to be troubled for [Page 111] another, and to say, God help him. Grief, and Sorrow, and Anguish, and good Wishes, must break out into Action; else, all the rest is but good natur'd Compliment. The Laws of Charity bind us, not to be Barren, or Unfruitful, but to be full of Good Works, accor­ding as our own Capacities, and according as the Wants and Ne­cessities of other People are.

First, To do their Souls all the Good we can. This is the noblest Work of Charity, because it is done to the noblest Part of Man: And because there is a necessity for the Soul, upon its parting from the Body, to pass into an Everlasting, Unchangeable State, either of Happiness, or Misery: Greater Charity there cannot be, than to minister such Helps and [Page 112] Means to it now, as serve to pre­pare it for a Blessed Eternity: As, to instruct it in the right sound Faith; to teach it the true Fear of God; to subdue its Sinful and Inordinate Lusts; and to bring it to an habitual Practice of all manner of Piety and Virtue. He which converteth a Sinner from the Error of his way, shall save a Soul from Death, Jam. 5. 20. Such a Man saveth several Souls at once; his Neighbour's, and his own too. A most Honourable Office cer­tainly; the most Excellent Work, that is Crowned with a Reward so Glorious, so Infinite.

Secondly, Charity obligeth us to express a tender Regard to the Worldly Necessities of others al­so, according to our Abilities. God, who hath ordered all Things [Page 113] in Number, Measure, and Weight, hath of his great Goodness and Wisdom, made variety of Con­ditions among Mankind, and hath so suited Men's Capacities, For­tunes, and Abilities, to their seve­ral States of Life, that every one is to be useful in some respect or other to the rest. And because no Man can possibly live alone, or support himself in a State of ut­ter Separation from all others; Common Necessity ties us all to­gether, like so many Limbs and Members into one Body, that each may minister its Assistance to­wards the Maintenance of the whole. Now so far as any one wants, and becomes feeble, so far it is disabled and hindred from lending its own help to its Fel­lows: So that were nothing else to be consider'd but the Preserva­tion, [Page 114] and common Interest of Hu­mane Society, that alone would be enough to set all Hands at work, upon extending themselves in Acts of Charity.

But our Obligations to it are the greater still, because the Di­vine Being, who careth for us all, hath made that which is a Civil Duty, to be a part of our Religion too; that which the Necessities of Humane Society call for, he himself requires as necessary in order to our Eternal Interest. Upon both accounts therefore, as we are Men, and Christians also, we must be very careful to ex­press the Benevolent Disposition of our Hearts, by all outward Acts of Beneficence, according as our Stations and Capacities are, and according as the Needs and Sufferings of other People require [Page 115] our helping Hand; as, to save Life, when it is in danger; to de­liver Captives; to relieve the Op­pressed; to take care of the Sick; to help the Infirm; to feed the Hungry; to cloath the Naked; to cherish the Comfortless; to lift up the Head that hangeth down; to visit the Fatherless and Widow in their Affliction; and to send up to the God of Com­fort, our Charitable Intercessions for all. It was a Pious and Noble Reflection, which Job made upon himself, in the midst of his own Distress, Job 29. from Vers. 11. to Vers. 18. When the Ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the Eye saw me, it gave witness to me: Because I delivered the Poor when he cried, and the Fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The Blessing of him that was ready to [Page 116] perish, came upon me, and I caused the Widow's Heart to sing for joy. I put on Righteousness, and it cloathed me; my Judgment was a Robe, and a Diadem. I was Eyes to the Blind; and Feet was I to the Lame. I was a Father to the Poor, and the Cause which I knew not, I searched out. And I brake the Jaws of the Wicked, and plucked the Spoil out of his Teeth.

Thirdly; Besides our doing Good to the Souls and Bodies of Men after this manner, we are bound to express our Charity by being kind to their Reputation also. Interest, Fortune, Comfort, Peace, Life it self, depends upon this; and it is the more neces­sary to be preserved with Care, because it is easie to be lost, and the hardest Thing to be recover'd. [Page 117] Nay, in some cases, the common Welfare, and the very Honour of God depends upon it too. For if the Persons, whose Credit is wounded, be placed in any pub­lick Station either in Church, or State, it will be impossible for them, as long as the Wound re­mains, to do the World that Good, or God that Service, which is the end of their Office; and by this means the Blow striketh very deep, and affects in some mea­sure the whole Community: And therefore for the Love of God and Man, we should always en­deavour either to prevent, or heal. If the Persons reproach'd deserve it not, 'tis but Justice to be their Advocates; if they do, 'tis Cha­rity however: But what ever it be to them, to be sure 'tis Cha­rity to the Publick; and perhaps [Page 118] an Effectual, as well as Charitable Way, to shame and reclaim the false Accusers themselves, whose business is, not to convince or mend others, but to expose them. Besides, rarely doth any one's Re­putation bleed, but the first Drop is drawn by those Backbitings and Whisperings, which St. Paul mentions, 2 Cor. 12. 20. by Arti­fices in private, where the greatest Innocence cannot stand upon the Defensive; and then 'tis like the breaking in upon the Dead, that cannot help themselves: In which case Common Charity should move every Man to be for a Rescue, Alas! even Crimes should be buried, and lie quiet in the Grave; because they cannot ap­pear above Ground without Scan­dal.


5. Having shew'd you that Of­fice of Charity, which consisteth in Kindness, or in doing others Good in every respect, I proceed now to the next Character the Apostle gives of it; Charity envy­eth not: That is, will not be di­sturbed or grieved at another's Happiness; or at any Thing, wherein another excels. The Scripture calls this Passion, An Evil Eye, Matth. 20. 15. And Plutarch compares it to a Disease in the Eye, by means whereof it cannot endure to behold any splendid or bright Object.

Of all the Distempers of the Mind, there is none that proceed­eth from a worse, nor yet from a weaker Cause; for it is not [Page 120] grounded upon any Personal Crime, but upon a Wicked Opi­nion of Partiality in Providence, and upon an Abusive Conceit of ones own Deserts. Where is any Injustice or Blame in the Man, if God pleaseth to bless him with outward or inward Gifts above his Neighbours? Yet this is the Original of Envy, that for Great and Wise Reasons, God doth dispense his Goodness to some with a more Liberal Hand, than what he extendeth unto others. And can any Thing be more wicked, than to quarrel with the Divine Being for his Bounty? Or can any Thing be more unreaso­nable, than to find fault with a Man, because he is happily made a Partaker of it? For Anger, and Hatred, and some other Vices, there might be some Tolerable [Page 121] Pretence; did not the Laws of Religion forbid them. This Vice is the most unfortunate of all, that it hath no Covering, but an Evil Heart.

But I am not now to consider so much the Unreasonable Nature of Envy, as how contrary and opposite it is to a Spirit of Cha­rity; for, whereas a Charitable Person wisheth well to all, and en­deavours, as far as in him lies, to do Good to all; the Envious Wretch grieves and pines, mur­murs and complains, frets and ra­ges at his Neighbour's Happiness. Such a Wretch is not so much as Charitable to himself; because his great (I had almost said, his only) kindness is to a Vice, that is his cruelest Enemy; to a Vice, that cuts and pierces him to the quick; to a Vice that eats daily upon his [Page 122] Vitals, and into his Heart; and in return for its Entertainment, gives him nothing but Gall and Wormwood. And how can it be expected, that a Man so imbit­ter'd should be Charitable to any other. If you have Envying, and bitter Strife in your Hearts, glory not, and lye not against the Truth. This Wisdom descendeth not from a­bove, but is Earthly, Sensual, and Devilish: For where Envying and Strife is, there is Confusion, and every Evil Work: Jam. 3. 14, 15, 16. There is Meaness of Spirit, Co­vetousness, Detraction, Hatred, Lying, Malice, Fraud, Oppression, Partiality, Cruelty, and too often Blood-guiltiness it self. The first Blood that ever was shed upon the Earth, was shed out of meer Envy; because the Lord had re­spect unto Abel, and to his Offer­ing, [Page 123] Gen. 4. 4. Yet how was it a Crime in Abel, or why was he to be blamed, that God loved him?

An Envious Spirit being so in­consistent with Charity, so repug­nant to it, so utterly destructive of it, we should use all possible means to pluck out of our Souls this poisonous Root of Bitterness: Then shall we be Charitable in­deed when we unfeignedly desire, not only the Eternal, but even the Temporal Prosperity of all Men, and strive according to our Abi­lity to Promote it. Then shall we express our Charity indeed, when we seek not our own only, but consider the Cases, and suit our selves to the Circumstances of o­thers, as if they were our own too; when we bless God for them, and are satisfied and pleased [Page 124] to see our Neighbours sit at Peace under their Vines, delighted and chearful with their Milk and Ho­ney about them. Then are we Charitable to all Men, when in stead of fretting against any, we take Compassion upon the worst, lamenting and pitying their Infe­licities, as well as Sin, when they abuse and misapply the Mercies of God to them. Then are we Cha­ritable indeed, when we rejoyce for those Gifts which the Divine Bounty bestows, especially upon Good Men; when we are Thank­ful for them, and make this Chri­stian Use of them, as to become our selves the Wiser and Better for them. Then are we Chari­table indeed, when we are con­tented with our own present Por­tion, and satisfied with other Men's, entirely submitting to the [Page 125] Will of God, with this comfor­table Perswasion, That in the se­veral Acts of his Providence to them and us, he doth that which is best for us all; if not that which we most Covet, yet that which we most Need. Briefly, to Acquiesce in his Goodness and Wisdom, considering how much we Enjoy above what we really deserve, how many Thousands that deserve as well come vastly short of us, and how little short we our selves comparatively come of those who deserve better; to put a due value upon every the least Blessing of God, and with all modest Resignation to leave our selves, our Fortunes, and our Brethren, to his Government and Disposal: This is at once to be Wise, Patient, Pious, and Chari­table also.


6. The next Character which St. Paul gives of Charity, as a Rule for us to express it by, is not so readily understood as the former, because it admits of various Inter­pretations: The Expressions which the Apostle useth, is no where else to be found in the Holy Scrip­ture. Very probably it is a Latin word made Greek, as some other words in the New Testament are, and therefore it is no wonder, if it bears a very doubtful Sense; espe­cially considering, that it is no very common Word among the Old Latines neither: [...], is the Expression; which our Translation rendreth, Doth not vaunt it self: But this is included in the following Character of [Page 127] Charity, that is, it is not puffed up.

If that Construction be right which Dr. Hammond mentions (though without any Credit) out of Phavorinus, it should be ren­dred thus, Charity flattereth not; and certainly Flatterers are the most Uncharitable People in the World; for they carry a Feather in their Hands with a design to do soft Execution, and therefore are to be avoided as base and cursed Fellows, as Destroyers and Pests, saith Plutarch, (De Lib. Educ.) To which purpose, that wise Hea­then hath written a large Dis­course; (Plut. de Adul. & Amici. Discrimine.)

Some Divines render the Apo­stle's Expression thus, Charity is not Inconstant; Others, Charity is not Pretending, Feigned, and Hy­pocritical; [Page 128] in which sense, Clemens Alexandrinus and St. Basil seem to agree.

There are no less than nine or ten Interpretations of the Phrase: But the fairest, and that which is most followed by the Learned, is that of St. Chrysostom and Tertul­lian; Charity is not Precipitant; or, a Charitable Person doth not run headlong; doth not act rash­ly, boisterously, and without due consideration.

That Noble Faculty the Under­standing, being planted in the Soul by Almighty God, to direct us in all Cases, Reason ought to be the Principle and Rule of our Moral Actions: We should first propose to our selves a good End in all our Undertakings, and then make choice of such good Means, as right Reason tells us are fit and [Page 129] proper for the attaining it. Un­less we do manage our selves thus considerately, we do not act like Rational Beings, but like Mad­men, Fools, and Brutes.

Therefore when we are about to deal with one another, we should strictly Examine before-hand, Whether the End we drive at be Charitable, or consistent with our Neighbours Good and Welfare; and whether the Means we would use be Charitable in like manner. For if either the End, or the Means, be contrary to the Law of Charity, the Action it self must needs be very sinful, and defile the Conscience; and therefore it should be well weigh­ed and considered before-hand. Men should not do Things, espe­cially Things of this Nature, in an hurry; nor suffer their Pas­sions [Page 130] to carry them violently on, before Right Reason hath had Au­dience; because when an Action is done hand over head, it is a very great Chance if it be not Evil. The Thing Intended may be Evil, for ought the Man knows; for he considers it not; and the course he takes to bring it about, may be Evil too, and seldom is an Action unadvisedly done, but it is so: And then Mischiefs un­avoidably follow, and some too that perhaps were not designed at the first. 'Tis St. Chrysostom's Ob­servation, That Charity makes one Prudent, Cautious, Grave, and Con­descending, and by bringing the Mind to Temper and Thought­fulness, preventeth Rash and Inju­rious Proceedings. But if Spleen make head against Reason, and Inconsideration gets the Mastery, [Page 131] Power strikes at every Thing that stands in the way, which in that case is as a Knife in the Hand of a Mad-man.

Therefore in the whole inter­course of those Offices, which usually pass between Man and Man, we should deliberate about our Actions in good time; and how Alluring soever any Thing appears, we should narrowly look into the Nature of it, in stead of viewing the Face; and consider throughly first, whether it be Just, then whether it be Charitable also, consistent with that Goodness and Kindness of Mind which becomes a Christian. If the Thing be contrary to the Law of Love, and such as we would not have ano­ther to do to our own selves, we must with a very quick Hand lay the Bridle upon our Passions, lest [Page 132] the Beast should prove Heady, and by running away with us at all adventures, rush us headlong into a great many Sins. We should sit down a while and consider, how short our Life is at the best, and what little time in compari­son we have to do Good in the World; and how suddenly many drop into the Grave, before they have done any at all. We should consider, what base Vices Hatred and Malice are; what Dishonou­rable and Wicked Purposes they tend to; what Mean and Hellish Arts Men are driven to, for the putting of them in execution; what Disorders they make in the World; how Prejudicial they are to the Interest of Mankind, to the Peace and Comfort of Hu­mane Life; and what Irreparable Mischiefs arise from them natu­rally, [Page 133] not only to Single Persons, but to Bodies, to Families, to Publick Societies, nay to the whole Church and State, when once they come to break out, as very often they do, into Epidemical Outrage. We should consider too, what Rewards they bring to the Actors themselves, after all these Dreadful Consequences; Vexation and Anguish of Spirit, a Polluted Conscience, a lost Cre­dit, an abbreviated Life, and in stead of any solid Satisfaction in the Course, or at the End of it, Eternal Damnation at last, both of Soul and Body. What Fruit will Men have then of those Things, whereof they ought even now to be Ashamed? I am per­swaded, if People would but De­liberate thus before-hand, and suf­fer their Minds kindly to enter­tain [Page 134] these, or some of these Con­siderations, it would be impossible for half so much Folly and Storm to be in the World: Such an excellent way this is, not only to express, but to encrease Men's Charity to one another, and to keep them from tumbling precipi­tously into a vast Complication of Wickednesses and Misfortunes, which one day Uncharitable Wretches will repent of; tho' perhaps not till it be too late; till they have Sinned the time of their Peace away.


7. The next Character of Cha­rity is, that it is not Puffed up; alloweth not People to be Proud and Arrogant, to be Haughty and Supercilious, to have an immodest, [Page 135] lofty, and over-high Conceit of a Man's own self; or to behave himself with Contempt and Scorn towards those, whom he looks down upon at a distance as his In­feriors.

There is hardly another Vice that is more Foolish, more Hate­ful, than Pride is; none that is so like to the Devil's Temper; I am sure, none that stands in more di­rect opposition to all the Laws of Charity. An humble Mind stoops to all, though the meanest and lowest Offices; nor is there any Act of Love, which it is not wil­ling to reach out a kind Hand unto, though it be to the washing of Feet: And the Reason is, be­cause a truly humble Man hath so modest an Opinion of himself, and so high an Esteem of others, that he is apt to reckon all good [Page 136] Offices to be a kind of Debt to them, and a very necessary, though a poor Tribute of Honour to the Meek and Lowly Jesus. But Pride sets Men so remote from their Neighbours, that to desire their Friendship, looks like Incroach­ment; and for themselves to offer it, seems to them a Transgressing the Rules of Greatness; and so in that distance and interval between State and Meanness, many Acts of True Charity are wanting, many Blessed Opportunities of doing Good drop to the Ground, and are quite lost, and perhaps too when the Necessities of Poor Wretches are most pressing. Sel­dom do Proud Men think of God himself, They care not for God, nei­ther is God in all their Thoughts, saith David, Psal. 10. 4. They think not of him as their Maker [Page 137] and Benefactor, by whom they live; or as their Law-giver and Judge, by whom they must be Sentenced to Eternity; at least they think not with that Grati­tude, Reverence, and depth of Thought, which should swallow up all their vain Imaginations. And if God be not in their Minds, it is no wonder if Men be not there, and if they be full of no­thing but Themselves. But this is not all: The Case would be bet­ter though they did no Good, if they did no Hurt neither. But Pride is such an Injurious and Im­perious Vice, that where it Ruleth, it admits of no Bound but those of its own setting, and those are as uncertain, as precarious Priviledges under an Arbitrary Power. Pride commonly hath Covetousness for its Factor, to Toil and Drudge for [Page 138] its Maintenance; and when those Vices go hand in hand, nothing is safe that is within reach, though it be Naboth's Vineyard. Ahab was sick at Heart for it, and to recover his Content, the Poor Man's Blood was sought for too, as the speediest Remedy. Men of such Tempers are so bloated with an Opinion of their own Deserts, that they fancy themselves to have a kind of Right to every Thing, especially if it be judged necessary and convenient; and how then can we hope for Cha­rity, when there is no room for Justice? Fraud, Rapine, and Op­pression, are the usual designs of an elated Mind, and 'tis the harder to stop them, because Proud Peo­ple are ever apt to over-look their Actions; think it a Diminution to obey such a Thing as Con­science; [Page 139] are too Big to be taken to account; too High to ask themselves; is there not Iniquity in my Right Hand?

Indeed People who are thus puffed up, have not always power to hurt others much in their For­tunes; but then they seldom fail to oppress them in their Fame; which is another Thing utterly in­consistent with that Candor and Goodness, which evermore attends a Charitable Temper. Pride is always very Censorious; though many times there is no other Rea­son for the hard Character it gives, but this only, That it may have a Foil, to set off it self. The greatest Innocence is often Re­proached, because Proud People care not what others deserve, but would have you know how Sin­gular their own Merits are; by [Page 138] [...] [Page 139] [...] [Page 140] exposing a Neighbour, they hope you will think the better and the more highly of them: By throw­ing Dirt upon others Faces, they think their own will appear the more Beautiful; like the haugh­ty Pharisee in the Gospel, who thought to Recommend himself to God, by making Reflections; I am not as other Men are, Extor­tioners, Ʋnjust, Adulterers, nor even as this Publican, Luke 18. 11.

By this Injurious and Unchari­table Practice, many Mischiefs be­fal Mankind; as Strife, Railings, Animosities, Violence, and all man­ner of Outrage. So that Salo­mon saith, Prov. 13. 10. Only by Pride cometh Contention. 'Tis the only Natural Mother of Conten­tion: There are Accidental Causes of it, as Drunkenness, Passion, Revenge, and the like, which [Page 141] bring forth Strife upon preceding Heats and Provocations; but Pride is the only Vice, that hath a con­stant, natural Inclination that way; a Principle that tends to Strife, whether there be just Provoca­tions or no; the Vice that loves it, and delights in it; and indeed that Signalizeth it self chiefly by it; for had we not Reason to be­ware of Quarrels, and to be afraid of them, for the mischievous Na­ture and Consequence of them, very little notice would be taken of Proud People; they would be the most Slighted and Scorned, as now they are the most Hated Creatures in the World.

Therefore that we may beget in us a right Spirit of Charity, and be able duly to express it, we should Learn of our great Law­giver and Exemplar, to be very [Page 142] lowly in Heart, Matth. 11. 29. We should first lay our selves low under an awful Apprehension of God's Greatness, and under a just Sense of our own Vileness and Unworthiness, to be sure in com­parison of Him; of whose Perfe­ctions and Glory there is no End. Then we should consider, with what admirable Wisdom God hath ordered the World; that as all Things depend upon him, so under him one Thing dependeth upon another, and ministreth Help to another; and in this respect or that one Thing excelleth another too: That Man himself, though he struts upon the Earth with such Pomp and State, is behold­ing to the meanest Creature for Succour and Assistance: That the most Valuable Things any Man hath are all borrowed, and that [Page 143] but for a little time too. That though the Righteous be more Excellent than his Neighbour, yet it is God that makes the diffe­rence, and that we have nothing of our own but our Follies and our Sins. Few think it reasonable to be proud of these; and be­cause all the rest are Debts, there is no reason for any to be proud of them neither. Upon these ac­counts we should prick the Bubble in our Minds, which hath nothing in it but Air, nothing about it but Phantastical Gaiety, to please Chil­dren and Fools. The business of a Man is to do Good; and in or­der thereunto, we should Prefer one another in Honour, Rom. 12. 10. Condescend to Men of low Estate, Vers. 16. Do nothing through Strife or Vain-glory, but in lowliness of Mind each should esteem other better [Page 144] than themselves, Philip. 2. 3. Be­cause how great soever one Man's Gifts may be, those of the most inferior Rank have in some re­spect or other greater Gifts than he hath. Briefly we should imi­tate the great Humility of the Lord Jesus, as a sure way of ex­pressing his great Charity too; who though He was in Form of God, and thought it no Robbery to be Equal with God, yet made himself of no Reputation. As he laid aside his Glory for the Form of a Servant; so he laid aside his Garments for the lowest Ministration, to wash the Feet of his Disciples with those most holy Hands, which had wrought so many Miracles, nay to wash the Feet of Judas himself, that was now going to betray him. But I shall speak no more at present of [Page 145] this Virtue, Humility, because it will require a particular Discourse by it self.


8. The Eighth Character of Charity is, That it doth not behave it self Ʋnseemly; doth nothing to others that is Indecent, Foul, or Unsuitable, to the Excellence and Honour of Christ's Religion.

One great Reason is, because disorderly and disgraceful Actions are not only Evil in their own Nature, but are Evil in their Ef­fects, Scandalous and very Hurt­ful in their Consequences; they carry a strong Infection with them, which is of Evil Opera­tion; they serve to taint the Minds, and corrupt the good Manners of other People, that behold them; [Page 146] and so are apt to draw a great many more to the Practice of them. This is that which the Scripture meaneth, when it speaks of making Men to Sin; of laying a Stumbling-Block in their way; of wounding their Consciences; of Of­fending, and giving Offences; as those two wicked Sons of Eli did, Hophni and Phineas, when they abused Women in that shameful manner, 1 Sam. 2. And so it is always, when People are allured into the Communion of any Guilt; when they are encouraged and tempted to do an Evil Thing by seeing others do it. Nothing is more Natural than Imitation, especially in bad Things. Such is the Corruption of our Nature, that every one is of a soft, waxy Disposition on that side, apt to re­ceive deeper Impressions from one [Page 147] ill Example, than from many good ones. There is a Conta­gion in Vice, which insensibly goes from one to another, till the Disease becomes General. A Dis­orderly Master teacheth his whole Family Licentiousness and Irreli­gion. An Unjust, Malicious, and Dissolute Neighbour, is a Plague to a whole Society, and shews others the way how to be so too. A Seditious Subject em­boldens many more to disturb the Publick Peace; and one Facti­ous Preacher is enough to raise Animosities, Quarrels, and Schisms in a whole Church; when once the Infection spreads, God knows where it will end; the Sin and Mischief runs on, and is still pro­pagated with the Example.

Upon this account every Scan­dalous and Shameful Action is [Page 148] utterly Repugnant to the Rule of Charity, because it is Injurious, and Injurious in the highest de­gree; Injurious to the Souls of Men, to those Precious and Im­mortal Spirits of Men, for which the Lord Jesus was pleased of his own meer Goodness and Charity to die. This is a Sin of a very high Nature, a Sin against Christ, faith St. Paul, 1 Cor. 8. 12. that doth after a more peculiar man­ner, and with a particular sort of Spear, wound that infinite Lover of Souls.

For the opening this Matter a little further, it will be very use­ful for us to consider two famous Cases, that were in the beginning of Christianity, even in the Days of the Apostles. Then there were two hot Controversies in the Church; and it is observable, that [Page 149] in each Case the Controversie was about a Thing that was pure­ly indifferent; no particular Law, whether from the Nature of the Thing, or from God, or from the Church, binding People to act the one way or the other: And yet in both Cases, Charity was the great General Rule, which the Apostles ordered Men to go by, for fear of tempting others into Sin; which plainly shews, that to give a Scandalous Example, by any shameful or foul Action, is a most abominable Practice.

The first Case related to those Jews, who were newly brought over to Christianity. Many of them were so weak in their Faith, so uninstructed as yet in the Do­ctrine of Christian Liberty, that they thought it still necessary for [Page 150] them to observe the old Jewish Sabbath, and other Solemn Days, which Moses had appointed, and to abstain totally from some sorts of Meats, which had been forbid­den by Moses: Others again made no scruple about these Things, but look'd upon those Days and Meats as Indifferent now under the Gospel; and accordingly they used their Christian Liberty as to both. Now though St. Paul gave this Rule to each Party, Rom. 14. 3. Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not, judge him that eat­eth. Yet the Apostle seems most inclined (as Charitable Men are apt to be) to the weaker side; and that Charity might have the casting Hand in the whole Con­troversie. He directed those who were throughly Instructed, not to [Page 151] use their full lawful Liberty in the presence of a weak Brother, lest he should be tempted, either to do as others did, though against his Conscience, or else to forsake the Christian Communion; either of which would have been a deadly Sin. Judge this, (saith the Apostle) that no Man put a stum­bling Block, or an occasion to fall, in his Brother's way, Rom. 14. 13. And again, If thy Brother be grie­ved (or scandalized) by thy Meat, now walkest thou not Charitably; destroy not him with thy Meat, for whom Christ died, V. 15. And again, For Meat destroy not the Work of Gods; all Things indeed are pure, but it is evil for that Man who eateth with Offence. It is good neither to eat Flesh, nor to drink Wine, nor any thing whereby thy Bro­ther stumbleth, or is offended, or made weak; V. 20, 21.

[Page 152] The other Case related to those Proselites, who had been brought over to Christianity from Hea­thenism. Whereas there was an old General Custom among the Heathens, to eat part of those Sacrifices, which had been offered to their supposed Deities, many of them, though they had recei­ved the Christian Faith, continued this Custom nevertheless; belie­ving still, that the Things they Worshipped were Real Beings, and that they themselves were better by much for partaking of those their Sacrifices. Others knew, that these were grosly mistaken; and were convinced, that those Idols were nothing but Fictitious and Imaginary Deities: However these too resorted to the Idol-Feasts for Compliance-sake, [Page 153] yet believing them not to be Religious, but ordinary Friend­ly Meals. Now this was a very Shameful and Evil Practice: For though the eating of those Meats, abstractedly and simply conside­red, was a Thing indifferent, yet the Scandal it gave, made it ut­terly unlawful, because it was a Violation of Charity; it confir­med others in their old Heathen­ish Opinion, and encouraged them to go on still in their old Hea­thenish sinful Course. To rectifie this Matter therefore, St. Paul discourseth in 1 Cor. 8. shewing, that though he and others had a very vile Opinion of the Hea­then-Idols, yet it was a most shameful and wicked thing to lay a stumbling Block in their Bre­thren's way, (that is the Expres­sion again;) that is, to Minister [Page 154] unto them any occasion of fal­ling into, or of continuing in a sinful Practice. Meat commend­eth us not unto God; for neither if we eat are we the better, neither if we eat not are we the worse. But take heed, lest by any means this Li­berty of yours become a stumbling Block to them that are weak. For if a Man see thee, who hast know­ledge, sit at Meat in the Idols Tem­ple, shall not the Conscience of him that is weak, be embolden'd to eat those Things which are offered to Idols? And through thy knowledge shall the weak Brother perish, for whom Christ died? Vers. 8, 9, 10, 11. And at the close of that Chapter he declared his own Peremptory Resolution; That if Meat made his Brother to offend, he would eat no Flesh while the World stood, lest he should make his Brother to offend. [Page 155] Here then is a noble Rule of Charity for us all to go by, viz. To be very careful that we do not at any time encourage others to do Evil, by our Indecent and Scandalous Examples in any case: Not so much as in the use of Things purely Indifferent, much less by doing Things that have a Moral and Natural Turpitude in them: Such Things are of a most shameful Nature, and of ve­ry dangerous Consequence; and therefore we should always be­ware of them, lest we be answer­able for other Men's Blood and Ruine, as well as our own.

St. Chrysostom understands the Apostle thus, Charity is not a­shamed, and he instanceth in our Blessed Saviour, who was not at all ashamed, when the Harlot washed his Feet with Tears, and [Page 156] wiped them with the Hairs of her Head, kiss'd his Feet, and anointed them; nor when he was spit up­on and abused by base Fellows, nor when he carried a Thief and Murderer with him into Paradise. The meaning of that great Man is, That true Charity doth not permit one to do a foul Thing, a Thing which he hath just Reason to be ashamed of. The Lord Jesus did all Things with a Chari­table Purpose, and to Charitable Ends: And we that are his Fol­lowers, should follow him in this, To win as many Souls to him as we can, in stead of Discouraging or Offending any; to gain all that are about us, at least to en­deavour it. This is Christian Charity indeed, to become ones Brother's Keeper; to lift him him­self out of the Pit, whatever be­comes [Page 157] of his Ox or Ass; to save his Soul from Death; to be ten­derly concerned for that Immor­tal Part; to Convert him from the Error of his Way; to take him up like a wandring Lost Sheep upon the Shoulders; and by a Good Example and Chari­table Directions, to shew him the Way to Everlasting Life.


9. The Reason why Charity requires these and the like Offices at our hands is, because it is a publick-spirited Grace. And that is another noble Character the Apostle gives of a Charitable Per­son, that he seeketh not his own; not his own Private Advantage only, but the Profit of others too; and especially the good of [Page 158] the whole Community, to which he stands related. This is inclu­ded in the very Notion of Cha­rity; for it is a kind, benevolent Disposition, that makes us lend an helping hand, wherever it is want­ing. The truth is, this is Charity to ones self too, as well as to others, if you consider the Mat­ter rightly. That we may be tied, and linked, and bound close together by mutual Love and Kindness, God hath so ordered the State of this World, that all Men have a necessary Dependance one upon another; nor would there be such a shiftless, pitiful, miserable Creature in the World as a Man, were he to live alone, and by himself. Every one of us stands in need of the Society and Help of others, as much as we need Food or Air. He needs [Page 159] the Magistrate, to Protect him under God; the Statesman, to Consult and Advise for him; the Divine, to Instruct him; the Tradesman, to Supply him with a World of Necessities; the Sol­dier, to Fight for him; the pain­ful Husbandman, to find him Bread; the poor Servant, to Work and Sweat for him; nay, the Greatest and Richest Man on Earth needs the very Beggar to do him good too: He needs even the Blind, and the Lame; the Hungry, and Naked; the com­fortless Mother, and her sucking Child: For what? Why to lay up his Treasure in Heaven for him; for these are God's Recei­vers; by their Hands it is that Men lend unto the Lord, that they may receive themselves Ten thousand fold at the hands of [Page 160] Christ. Every one's Good is lodged more or less every where, just as his Necessities are; some part in one hand, some in ano­ther; and the greatest part in the Common Good, in the joint Stock of the Community, in the Prosperity and Good of the whole Kingdom. 'Tis a great mistake for a Man to think, that all his Interest lieth at Home, in his Fa­mily, and in Himself, and within the compass of his own Propriety. There indeed lieth his particular and private Interest: But what is that worth, if his publick Interest be destroyed? If the Welfare of the whole Nation be destroyed, and gone? Every Man's particu­lar Happiness is bound and wrapt up in that, and depends on that; nor is it possible for the Body to suffer, but each Member must [Page 161] suffer in proportion. And hence it follows, that he is a Fool, as well as an ill Neighbour, that seeks his own private Welfare only, neg­lecting and overlooking the Com­mon Good, which is the main, and which Supports and Preserves all the rest. It is sinful Self-Love that looks at Home only, and is busie altogether within its own Walls. The Office of Charity is to look abroad; to see how the Publick fares; to consult and mind the publick Good; to lend a helping Hand in all publick Ne­cessities; and with all possible care to avoid every Thing that is di­rectly Injurious to the Com­mon Happiness, and destructive of it.

To express our Charity there­fore in this respect also, as every one should seek not his own, but ano­thers [Page 162] Wealth, 1 Cor. 10. 24. So all of us are obliged after an espe­cial manner, to study and provide for the Peace of the Society, whereunto we all belong. Peace is the greatest Happiness upon Earth; as it is the State of Hea­ven; the Blessing that gives a Re­lish to all the rest; that makes all other Enjoyments sweet and de­lightful; and for that Reason the Holy Scripture is wont to express all manner of Happiness by the General Name of Peace. To de­stroy or disturb this, is to be a publick Enemy; and where a Spi­rit of Contention reigneth and striveth, the War must be very dangerous to the whole Body, be­cause it is in the Bowels. 'Twere better living in a Desert, and to wait for ones Food, as Elijah did, by the ministry of Ravens, [Page 163] than with a Generation of Peo­ple, that are Enemies to Peace; Restless, Froward, Troublesom, Malicious, ready for any oppor­tunity to Vex and Scourge one another. In such a case, Society, which should be ones great Com­fort, is his greatest Plague, for Men are thereby the stronger to hurt him; Spleen works till it raiseth a Confederacy, and then Mischiefs run with an Inundation; like Calamities in a Civil War, where Force carries it, and Armed Enemies consider not what they should, but what they can do.

To prevent the Plagues of this Life, as well as the Torments of another; the Laws of the most Holy and Charitable Jesus require us to be Peacemakers, Matth. 5. 9. To live in Peace, 2 Cor. 13. 11. [Page 164] To follow Peace with all Men, Hebr. 12. 14. To seek Peace, and ensue it, 1 Pet. 3. 11. To keep the Ʋnity of the Spirit, in the bond of Peace, Eph. 4. 3. If it be possible, as much as lieth in us, to live peace­ably with all Men, Rom. 12. 18. And, To follow after the Things that belong to our Peace, Rom. 14. 19. And certainly, if it be Charity to wish others, and to do others all the Good we can, it must be the greatest Charity to seek that which is the best Thing in the World for them, in what Capaci­ties soever we consider them, whe­ther as Inhabitants of the Neigh­bourhood, or as Members of a Church, or as constituent Parts of a whole Kingdom; and when our Charity is thus Large and Exten­sive, it will in some measure re­semble the Goodness of God, [Page 165] whose Mercy is over all his Works.

1. First, We are to express our Charity, by seeking and ensuring Peace in the Neighbourhoods we belong to. How great a Com­fort is it when Neighbours sit quietly and contentedly under their Vines and Fig-trees, Loving and Kind to one another, each reaching out his Clusters to the rest, all rejoycing together in the Innocent and Friendly Participa­tion of God's Mercies; and all Blessing God for them? What a Good, what a Beautiful, what a Delightful Thing it is, when Peo­ple thus dwell together in Love, Unity, and Peace? What an Hea­venly State is this, in comparison of their wretched Condition, a­mong whom Envy and Strife [Page 166] rageth; where Hatred seeketh continually, how it may Grieve and Oppress, where Ishmael's Hand is against every Man, and every Man's Hand against him? Where one Tormenteth another, as if there were not Crosses enough in the World, but they must make new ones to Crucifie one another? Is this consistent with the Nature and Laws of Charity? Is this to be Long-suffering, to be Kind? To behave our selves seemly, and as it becometh Brethren? Is this to love our Neighbours as our selves? And to love one another, as our Blessed Saviour hath loved us? No, no; there is no more Charity in this, than there is in Hell. If we bite and devour one another, whom do we resemble but that wicked One, who was a Murderer from the beginning? [Page 167] If ye have bitter Envying and Strife in your Hearts, glory not, and lye not against the Truth. This Wisdom descendeth not from above, but is Earthly, Sensual, and Devilish. For where Envying and Strife is, there is Confusion, and every Evil Work. But the Wisdom that is from above is, first Pure, then Peaceable, Gen­tle, easie to be Intreated, full of Mercy, and good Fruits, without Partiality, and without Hypocrisie: Jam. 3. 14, 15, 16, 17.

2. We must express our Cha­rity also, by an orderly and peace­able Temper, as to Church-Com­munion; not seeking our own Satisfaction, our own Ends, our own Ways, but the General Good of that Mystical Body, whereof Christ is the Head.

[Page 168] Seeing it is impossible to order all Church Matters so, as to an­swer the Opinion, and to gratifie the Desires of every individual Member, Charity should teach us all to consider, whether the Cir­cumstances which vary from our own private Fancies, be not really for the Publick Good, for the Com­mon Profit, and in some measure and respect for the Common Peace and Edification of the whole Body. This is easie to be seen, if Men would attentively behold the whole Stru­cture, and examine the Usefulness of the several Parts; especially if they would consider Things with Hearts prepared to make Candid and Charitable Constructions. Charity alone would stifle many Hot Controversies, without the use of some other Arguments, which for the most part help to [Page 169] Fan the Fire, in stead of Quench­ing of it. In lesser Matters, where my own Judgment chanceth to differ from the Publick Judgment of my Superiors, Charity should teach me to submit my Private Sentiments, and set them aside from being an hindrance to Unity and Peace.

Give none Offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God, saith St. Paul; Even as I please all Men in all Things, not seeking my own Profit, but the Profit of many, that they may be saved; 1 Cor. 10. 32, 33. He had a most difficult Task (though he was an Apostle) to please all Men in all Things: But his meaning is, that he took a ready way to please them if it were possible; by suiting himself to them in every thing he could do [Page 170] for them without Sin. And thus are we bound in Charity to our Fellow-Christians, and in Duty to the Church of God, as far as it lieth in our power to Comply in all Things, especially in Things Established by Publick Authority: Because differences in Religion are highly Scandalous, hurtful greatly to the very Souls of Men; ac­companied with a world of Ran­cour and Uncharitableness, and always tending to Confusion, and to all Evil Works, which naturally go along with Schism from the Church. Therefore for meer Charity and Peace-sake (were there nothing else) we should be all of the same mind; and if un­happily there be some difference in our Conceits, we should never­theless, whereunto we have alrea­dy attained, all walk by the same [Page 171] Rule, all mind the same Thing, in hopes that in time, by some means or other, God will Reveal to us the Truth and Reasonableness of those Matters, about which we are as yet differently perswaded, Phil. 3. This is a sure Rule in such cases; Hast thou Faith? have it to thy self before God, Rom. 14. 22. That is, rather than occasion the least Sin, or Scandal, or Mischief in the Church, keep thy Perswa­sion private if it be singular.

3. A Thing which we should be the more careful of, because Differences which begin in the Church, are commonly carried off into Corners; there to be fo­mented and ripened, till at last they break out into the State, and sometimes into the open Field, to the great Disturbance of the [Page 172] Peace and Government of a whole Kingdom. It is the Will of God, that under Kings, and all that are in Authority, we should lead quiet and peaceable Lives in all Godliness and Honesty, 1 Tim. 2. 2. And to this end we are commanded, to study to be quiet, and to do our own busi­ness, 1 Thess. 4. 11. Here then we must express our Charity in the third place; by seeking, not our own, but the General Good of the Civil, as well as Sacred Community, we belong to. Great are the Obligations which Nature it self hath laid upon Men to their Country; insomuch, that St. Paul wish'd himself accursed from Christ for his Brethren, his Kinsmen accor­ding to the Flesh, Rom. 9. 3. Mean­ing, not that he might be Eter­nally Damned, (that Charity, if yet it be true Charity, is unnatu­ral, [Page 173] and too much even for a Christian,) but that he might be cut off from the Body of Christ here, and from all the present Priviledges of Christians; and if this were not enough, that he might be delivered up to Satan, in this World to inflict upon him all the Temporal Calamities he was capable of Suffering, Persecu­tions, Miseries of all sorts, Death it self, and whatsoever is most Grievous on this side Hell; if thereby he might become an Expiation for his Country-men. Like Zeal of Charity to that of Moses, Exod. 32. 32. where he prayed to God to forgive the Sin of his People; or, if not, to blot him out of his Book; That is, not out of the Book of Eternal Life, but out of the Book of this Life; that he might not behold the [Page 174] great Punishments which should come upon them. These two noble Instances of Charity shew, what Fervent Affections we ought to have for a whole Nation, that is, after a more peculiar man­ner, Bone of our Bone, and Flesh of our Flesh; and how Passio­nately we should wish for, as well their Temporal, as Eternal Good; and consequently seek it, much rather than our own. A very Learned Casuist and Prelate of our own calls this, Alle­giance to our Country; Bishop Sander. Case of the En­gagem. whence the Allegiance we owe the Sovereign Prince ari­seth Originally, because he is the Head of the whole Community: So that it is with respect to the whole, and in relation to the whole, that the Duty to him be­comes necessary by the Laws of [Page 175] Nature. And hence it follows, that Men's first Care should be, for the Peace and Prosperity of the Community, where the Ori­ginal Reason of it lies. The Truth is, a Christian's Charity can hardly be extensive enough; Prince and People, and the whole World, ought to have a Share of it: Nor is any Thing more mean and unbecoming, (not to say Ir­religious) than a Narrow, Sordid, Hateful Spirit, which seeketh its own Private Good only.


10. Another Character of Cha­rity that followeth now is, that it is not easily Provoked, or highly Exasperated. But having already spoken of it, I shall proceed to that which is next at hand; it [Page 176] thinketh no Evil. Some Learned Divines think the Apostle's mean­ing to be, That Charity doth not permit a Man to impute another's Faults and Miscarriages to him, so as to upbraid him with them, and to design him Evil, or Hurt for them. And indeed this is a Vir­tue very becoming and suitable, to the Generosity of a Mind, that is truly Charitable and Great; and it is the more Laudable, because it is not very common. For such is the Temper of most People, that they Treasure up Provoca­tions against a Time of Wrath, so that the Offender shall be sure to hear of them, and to smart for them another day. Nay, it often happens, that let a Man's Merits be never so considerable in other Respects, they are forgotten or disregarded for one distastful [Page 177] Action: No Allowance is made for Humane Infirmities, and di­vers Circumstances, which might well be pleaded in Abatement and Excuse of the Fault; but the Me­mory of it continues, and return­eth still, like the Pains of an old Sore against foul Weather. All his Righteousness that he hath done, shall not be mentioned so as to come into Account; but for that one thing wherein he hath sinned, he shall feel the weight of an Avenging Hand, whether he Repenteth and Retracteth or no; that is all one to the Uncharitable Person that meditateth Evil.

But with Submission to better Judgments, I conceive, this cannot be the Genuine Sense of St. Paul here; because it doth not come up to the Spirit and Height of this Christian Grace. Not to design [Page 178] Mischief, though it be an Essen­tial Part, yet it is no such great Commendation of that Charity which is properly Christian; for Heathens themselves, upon a Prin­ciple of common Virtue, and Hu­manity, have condemned all Mis­chievous and Revengeful Inten­tions. And besides, this is a Thing, which hath already fallen under another Head, that relateth to the moderating of Anger: And to bring it in here again, would be Tautology; which we may be sure the Apostle did industriously avoid, especially where he Treat­eth after such a concise and di­stinct manner of the several Pro­perties of Charity.

St. Chrysostom's Interpretation seems the most Apposite and Na­tural; that Charitable Men are not Suspicious of Evil Designs at [Page 179] every turn; are not Jealous-headed; are so far from working Evil themselves, that they are not apt to entertain a wicked Mistrast of others working Evil against them. A suspicious Temper must needs be contrary to true Christian Charity, because (as St. Chrysostom rightly observes) it is the Origi­nal of Anger; and consequently, the Original Cause of those mani­fold Mischiefs which follow that wild and outragious Passion. Not only Families and Neighbour­hoods, but whole Churches and Kingdoms also have suffered in an high degree, by reason of Jealou­sies; and those too sometimes very Unreasonable and Ground­less.

Therefore to express our Cha­rity in this respect too, we should always judge of Men with all [Page 180] possible Candour; put as favou­rable Constructions as we can up­on their Actions, and conceive such a kind Opinion of them, though the Action be somewhat hard, as we are wont to have of the Miscarriages of a Friend, which we are willing to call so many Slips, Errors, and Indiscre­tions only. ‘Every Thing (saith Epictetus) hath two Handles; and ill-natur'd People are ever­more apt to lay hold of the wrong one.’ When a Fault is done, they are ready strait to think, the Injury or Affront was intended, and that maliciously; whereas a Man of Thought, and Temper, and of a Christian Spi­rit, would take the Thing by the other Handle; and call it Human Weakness, or Inadvertency, or by some other such soft Name, [Page 181] which Charity might easily find out, to cover the Nakedness of a poor Man, like unto ones self. Sometimes indeed Malice cannot be hid under all its Pretences and Disguises. When a Man comes into David's condition, who speak­ing of his Enemies, saith, They have privily laid a Net, to destroy me without a cause. False Witnesses rose up, and laid to my Charge Things that I knew not. They whis­per together against me. Their Words were smoother than Oyl, and yet they be very Swords. They daily mistake my Words; all that they imagine is to do me Evil: They hold all together, and keep themselves close; and mark my Steps. They encourage themselves in Mischief, and commune among themselves, how they may lay Snares. They have Rewarded me Evil for Good, and [Page 182] Harted for my Good Will; and the like. I say, when there is such Overt Acts, the inward Wicked­ness is plain and palpable; and yet even in such a case there must be Charity, though mix'd with Cau­tion; The Wisdom of the Ser­pent, with the Innocence of the Dove. But till the blackness of the Heart appears clearly, we must not judge of Men with such Severity, as if we had God's Om­niscience, and were able to disco­ver the Malignity of the very In­tention. Favourable and candid Interpretations from Unsuspicious Hearts, are always the safest and best; and the true way to bring us all to that Temper is, to be sincere and simple-minded our own selves, as we would have all others be; free from Arts, Guile, or Sinister Purposes. For cer­tainly, [Page 183] none are so Jealous of other Men, as they who are Conscious to themselves of their own Guilt; they that Practice the Arts of Dissimulation, and Dishonesty; they that leave the plain and easie Methods of Sincerity, to deal in the Intricate Mysteries of Subtilty and Craft, without regard to a Good Conscience. In the most ancient Times, People for the most part deserved Jacob's Character; Plain Men; Honest and Good; Free and Innocent in their Con­versation; Ingenuous in their Friendship; Open-breasted in their Promises; Faithful in their Con­tracts; without Evil Designs; without Hypocrisie. Fraud and Treachery, Lying and Tricking, increased in the World as the World degenerated, and as the Manners of Men became more [Page 184] and more corrupt, and these brought on Evil Jealousies; and it was a sad Age when the Insi­dious and False Disposition of the Jews made our Saviour give his Disciples that Rule of Common Prudence, to beware of Men, Mat. 10. 17. In the first Ages of our Religion, it was the Noble Character of Christians, that they did Things in Singleness of Heart, in Sincerity, and Godly Simplicity; keeping the Mean between two Extreams, neither turning Simpli­city into Folly, nor Prudence into Craft. And in those Times, Con­science was Law enough to them; they were not afraid, nor suspi­cious of one another, no more than some Indians are now, who use neither Sealing nor Signing in their Dealings with one another, unless the Dishonesty of some [Page 185] Christians hath taught them of late the Necessity of taking such Securities. Where Men live in­nocently together, there cannot be suspicious of Evil, because there is no occasion for them; they have as little reason to be afraid of one another, as Parents for­merly had to be afraid of their Children, when the Sin of Parri­cide was not so much as heard of in the World. The Laws which were made against it after a long Tract of Time, were shameful Monuments of some Children's Impiety: And so are Laws against Dishonesty now; Upbraidings of Corrupt Manners; Publick Testi­monies of the World's Degene­racy; and of the Miseries of Mankind. For the Ends of Hu­man Society are lost, where Truth and Simpleness of Mind fail; and [Page 186] that Confidence which supports Conversation and Commerce is gone, where Hearts and Tongues are of different Pieces; where Civilities are Traps; where Pro­mises are only to draw Men in; where a Smile is an Artificial Gloss upon a Treacherous Mind; where Contracts are Methods of Oppression; where fair Pretences are Flattering Ways of Robbing in the Dark; and where shews of Friendship are to do the Work of an Enemy, but with greater Safe­ty, and with more certain Success. Where there is such Falseness, such Hypocrisie, and Deceit, People must needs be as shy and fearful of each other, as if they were in danger of Wolves and Bears. And for the curing of all Jealou­sies, nothing is so necessary, as that Simplicity of Heart I am now [Page 187] speaking of; Sincere Meanings, Openness in Traffick, Plainness in Speech, Innocence in Society, Ve­racity in Expressions, Ingenuity in Promises, Fidelity in Covenants, Truth in Friendship, Honesty and Peaceableness in Designs, Sweet­ness in Behaviour, Good Nature in our Mutual Offices, and all other possible Expressions of a pure, harmless, and undisguised Religion: And this is the Great Work of Christian Charity.


11. The Eleventh Character of Charity is, that it Rejoyceth not in Iniquity: Which may admit of a Twofold Interpretation, and each very consistent with the other. The one is, That Charitable Men are far from taking Pleasure in the [Page 188] Sins and Impieties which a Neigh­bour committeth. The next is, That they are far too from being delighted in the Calamities which a Neighbour suffers by another's Iniquity. Whether St. Paul in­tended both these Things here, I cannot tell; perhaps he might mean both in a few Words: How­ever, because both are great Pro­perties of Charity, and the latter is not distinctly mentioned else­where in this Chapter, I shall here take occasion to speak something of both in their Order.

1. The first and most received Interpretation is, That Charity teacheth us, to be far from being Pleased and Delighted with the Sins and Iniquities we see other Men commit. There are some of that Base and Inhumane Dispo­sition, [Page 189] that what to all Pious Souls is a Torment, and a kind of Hell, is to them a Paradise; to hear ill Things of other Men, especially of those they have no Kindness for; that they may have a colourable Pretence to Defame and Depress them, to bring them into Dan­gers, and to use them Contume­liously; and that they may ren­der themselves the better Men (as they think) in the Esteem of the World. Such were those Jews, Jer. 20. 10, I heard, saith the Pro­phet, the Defaming of many; fear on every side: Report, say they, and we will report it: All my fami­liars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him; and we shall take our Revenge on him. Meaning, that they wish'd and sought for ways how to dis­cover [Page 190] some Miscarriages or other in him, that they might proceed against him, and punish him in the Sanhedrim. People of such a Temper are most highly Unchari­table, and resemble the very De­vil, who makes it his business to tempt Men to Sin, and delights to bring the greatest Evil upon us, the Hurt and Ruine of our Souls; nay, to have God himself Disho­noured by us.

A Spirit of Charity teacheth us to Grieve and Mourn at anothers Sins, though he be an Enemy; because every Soul God hath made, is Precious; and the more Precious, because it is Immortal; and its Case is thereby the sadder when it drops into the Pit, where the Worm dieth not, nor is the Fire to be quenched. This we should consider, and lay seriously [Page 191] to Heart, when we see or hear of any of those Iniquities; Fornica­tion, Adultery, Theft, Covetous­ness, Drunkenness, Revellings, Strife, Sedition, Heresies, Envyings, Mur­ders, and the like; of which St. Paul expresly tells us, That they who do such Things, shall not inherit the Kingdom of God, Gal. 5. 21. None are so to be pitied as such Workers of Iniquity, how pro­sperous and flourishing soever their Condition may seem to be here; even for that too they are to be pitied, because God setteth them in flippery Places; and when they fall, they fall into Per­dition, without God's immediate Help; which yet he hath no where promised without their Re­pentance. And when Men are just going, Repentance is com­monly too late, because it hath [Page 192] no time to be fruitful, and is sel­dom true. Considering therefore that our own Charity to such will then be too late also, we should shew it them in time; do them Good while we have an Oppor­tunity; while it is called to Day; while it is yet our Hour, and the Day of Salvation. Our Bowels should yern upon a Brother, as Joseph's did upon his Brother Ben­jamin, Gen. 43. and we should re­tire, as he did, into our Cham­ber, and weep there: Weep and Mourn for the Sin now acted, and earnestly Pray for the Pardon of it; and with the United Assistance of an Holy Example, Kind Re­proofs, and Charitable Counsels, we should endeavour to recover the Miserable Wretch out of the Snares of the Devil; if peradven­ture God will be pleased to give [Page 193] him Repentance in time. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? Said that great Lover of Souls, St. Paul, 2 Cor. 11. 29. This is fervent Charity indeed, to be Passionately Afflicted, to be on a Fire, for the Crimes and Offences of others; 'tis like the Charity of the Ten­der-hearted Jesus, that melted him into Tears, when he beheld that perverse and bloody City; O Je­rusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy Children toge­ther, as an Hen gathereth her Chickens under her Wings, and ye would not, Luke 13. 34.

2. But (as I said) there is ano­ther Interpretation yet of these Words, Rejoyceth not in Iniquity: [Page 194] It is St. Chrysostom's; and I like it the rather, because it is his; viz. That Charitable Men are far from Rejoycing at the Calamity of those that Suffer, especially that wrong­fully Suffer by means of another's Iniquity. To Triumph and Dance upon a Ruined Neighbour, to Laugh at his Adversity, to ex­press Delight, as those Men did at David's Misfortunes, There, there, so would we have it: This is a sore Evil, a very horrible Viola­tion of Charity, which obligeth us to Rejoyce with them that Re­joyce, and to Weep with them that Weep, Rom. 12. 15. That is, to Sympathize with our Brethren in every State and Condition.

This carrieth its own Light with it. Now, for our Practice of this Matter, we must be careful to do two Things.

[Page 195] First, We must construe the Dispensations of Providence after a fair and kind manner. This is not a Place or Time for Rewards; those are laid up for us in Hea­ven: The present Life is for Trials and Discipline, to Train us up, and to Prepare us for a Blessed Eternity, by such ways as God seeth best, and fittest for us. Many times Good Men fare Ill in this World, as well as the Bad, and sometimes worse; because in some cases they can do themselves and others much more Good by their Hardships, than it is possible for them to do by any other means. Therefore we should not look upon the ill Usages Men meet with here as Arguments, either of Displeasure in God, or of Wicked­ness in his poor Suffering Crea­tures; [Page 196] But as so many Dispensa­tions of God's Wisdom and Good­ness, who acteth after his own way, which is always for the best. Consequently, to trample upon one in Distress, and to exult over him, as if he were out of the Divine Favour, because his Case is hard; is both Uncharitableness towards the Man, and Irreligion towards God too; whose Pro­ceedings are always Wise and Good, though many times Myste­rious, till the Event opens the Meaning of them. God doth nothing in vain. As he is Good, and never grieves the Children of Men, but for good Purposes; so he is Just and Righteous too, and never spares the Workers of Ini­quity but for good Purposes also: For their Repentance, if they will be led to it; if not, for the full [Page 197] manifestation of their Sins, and for his own Honour and Glory in the end, by making them Exam­ples to the World. Therefore, saith our Apostle, judge nothing before the time, till the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hid­den things of Darkness, and will make manifest the Counsels of the Hearts; and then shall every Man have Praise of God, 1 Cor. 4. 5.

The Second Thing we are to be careful of is, To help those who want the Assistance of Cha­ritable Hands; those that Suffer by the Hand of Iniquity; those that are Oppressed with Wrong. When the Apostle saith, Charity rejoyceth not in Iniquity, or in Men's Sufferings by Iniquity, there is much more intended, than what is Literally express'd. Charitable [Page 198] Men must shew their Grief for those Sufferings, by Relieving and Aiding the Sufferers. Prosperity hath Friends enough; if we may call them Friends, who Congra­tulate and Caress us, while we are able to Reward them, or to do them Service. But if Job be cast upon the Dunghil, or Christ be brought near the Cross; the one is forsaken of his Acquain­tance, and the other of his very Disciples. 'Tis Adversity that shews the real, the fast Friend; and then is our Time to express our Charity, when another wants it, whether Friend, or Enemy; by endeavouring to Relieve him that Suffers by Iniquity: For if we use not our Endeavours for his Deliverance, it is to be sup­posed, that we are well enough pleased with his Condition; well [Page 199] enough satisfied, though he con­tinue in it. And is this Charity? That Active, Generous, Restless Virtue, that knows no Bounds, but Impossibilities? That Chri­stian Grace, which is ready to offer up Life it self? That God­like Spirit, which is made up of Goodness, Mercy, and Love? No, no: Charity Befriendeth all, doeth Good to all, extendeth Re­lief and Compassion to all; to him that Suffers, and even to those that do the Wrong; to those that seek Counsel against the Just, and gnash upon him with their Teeth, Psal. 37. 12. Their Case is to be Pitied indeed, because their Day is coming; the Day, when God will render to every Man according to his VVorks: To them who by pa­tient continuance in well doing, seek for Glory, and Honour, and Immor­tality, [Page 200] God will give Eternal Life. But to those who are Contentious, and do not obey the Truth, but obey Ʋnrighteousness, he will render In­dignation and VVrath, Tribulation and Anguish, upon every Soul of Man that doeth Evil, Rom. 2. 6, 7, 8, 9.


12. But I must hasten to the next Character St. Paul gives of Charity; which is, That it Rejoy­ceth in the Truth. The best Di­vines take the Word here, not in a strict, limited Sense, as it signifies Truth in Speech only, in opposi­tion to Lying; but in a very large Notion, as it signifies Probity of Heart, Sincerity in all Things, Uni­versal Uprightness, and Rectitude of Life, in opposition to all Ini­quity. Charity is of no narrow [Page 201] Spirit; but as diffusive as the Ocean, as wide and spreading as the Universe; and therefore it is not fit to bound it up here within a narrow Sense. In short, it signi­fies the Entire and True Practice of Religion; and so the Apostle's meaning is, That Charitable Peo­ple are overjoy'd when Religion prospereth and encreaseth; when Truth and Righteousness take Place, and gain Ground; when the Power of Godliness appeareth in Christians Lives; when they perform their respective Duties truly, uprightly, and sincerely, as it becometh their Profession, and is suitable to their high Cal­ling.

This is peculiarly Applicable to those of St. Paul's Function, who cannot but be passionately affe­cted with Joy unspeakable, when [Page 202] they find their Labours successful; when the Work and Pleasure of God prospers in their Hands; when they see of the Travel of their Souls, and behold the Fruit of it to their Satisfaction: Nor can there be any such great En­couragement to Men of that Sa­cred Office, as to be able to call their several Charges, as St. Paul did the Thessalonians, their Joy and Crown of Rejoycing, 1 Thess. 2. 19. Or to say as St. John did in the like case, 3 John 4. I have no greater Joy, than to hear that my Children walk in the Truth: That is, as becometh the Truth; in Holiness and Sobriety, in Humi­lity and Meekness, in Peace and Love; and in all those Virtues which Adorn the Doctrine of God their Saviour.

[Page 203] But this Matter doth not only concern Ministers of the Gospel. All People should be their Assi­stants in their respective Stations and Degrees, to forward the true Interest and Advancement of Re­ligion. This is the most Zealous Expression of our hearty Love to­wards God; the most significant Argument of Charity towards our Brethren; the truest Testi­mony of an Enlarged and Noble Mind: To take Pleasure in seeing Virtue and Holiness thrive, and the Kingdom of Christ advanced in the World. In order there­unto, every one should be Zea­lous in his Place and Capacity in Encouraging the Growth of true Piety, and in helping to Promote the Ends of the Gospel: So that Vice and Irreligion may be, not only out of Fashion, but out of [Page 204] Countenance too. This is the greatest Charity in the World, because on this depends the Sal­vation of Souls, which every par­ticular Member of the Church is obliged to help on, and set for­ward, as much as in him lieth. Begin at Home, and Encourage your Families to be truly Reli­gious in the first place. The holy Psalmist sets you a great Example, Psal. 101. from Vers. 2. to Vers. 8. I will walk in my House with a per­fect Heart. I will take no wicked Thing in hand: I hate the Sins of Ʋnfaithfulness; there shall no such cleave unto me. A froward Heart shall depart from me; I will not know (or countenance) a wicked Person. VVhoso privily slandereth his Neighbour, him will I destroy: VVhoso hath also a proud Look and high Stomach, I will not suffer him. [Page 205] Mine Eyes look upon such as are faithful in the Land, that they may dwell with me: VVhoso leadeth a Godly Life, he shall be my Servant. There shall no deceitful Person dwell in my House; he that telleth Lies, shall not tarry in my sight. Our great Business in this Life, is not to raise our selves Fortunes, but to do God Service, and to do the greatest Good we can to those about us: And the true way of doing both is, by our Examples, Councels, and Authority; to En­courage all under our Care, to live Soberly, Righteously, and Godly, in this present World.

And next to our Private Fami­lies, the Neighbourhood we belong to, must have a due share of our Zeal also. As we go about, we should sow Righteousness, espe­cially where we find the Soyl [Page 206] good: Weed out the Cockle and Thistles; Suppress every Thing that is Scandalous and Hurtful; Mend Breaches; Reform Man­ners; Reprove Immorality; Che­rish Honesty; Countenance the Meek and Gentle; Teach Men to be Humble and Peaceable, to be Orderly and Pious, to be Just and Charitable; to go to their Prayers, to live in Unity, to submit to those who have the Rule over them in the Lord; we should teach Men how to Love, and how to be Beloved: In a word, we should make it our business to Di­rect and Assist one another, so that in this World we may all lead Quiet and Peaceable Lives, in all Godliness and Honesty. This is the way to serve the Truth, to promote the Truth, to advance its Interest and Honour, to make [Page 207] it spread, flourish, and prosper so, that we may have cause of Re­joycing indeed; what Joy had St. Paul to see Religion propaga­ted, though it was sometimes by the help of those, who were spur­red on chiefly by Emulation, that they might outshine him, and les­sen the Glory of his Zeal and Success? Phil. 1. Some indeed preach Christ even of Envy and Strife, and some also of Good Will: The one preach Christ of Contention, the other of Love. What then? Why notwithstand­ing every way, whether in Pre­tence, or in Truth; Christ is preached, and therein (saith he) I do rejoyce; yea, and I will rejoyce. Some Portion of this Joy shall every one have, that helpeth to serve and advance Truth in his Place and Vocation, and according [Page 208] to his Abilities. Christ is thereby served in some measure, and the Comfort of it will return into the Charitable and Good Man's Bosom, though he doeth no more than what a good Example com­eth to. I am sure, that when we come to lie upon our Death-beds, where Conscience useth to speak plain and home, a greater Joy and Comfort there cannot be, than to reflect upon the good Examples we have given our Bre­thren, and the many good Offi­ces we have done them; and to consider, that in doing to the ve­ry least of these, we have done them unto Christ, and served Christ. Then there will be room for that Prayer of Hezekiah, Isa. 38. 3. Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked be­fore thee in Truth, and with a per­fect [Page 209] Heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. What Joy and Comfort those will then have, who hinder the Progress of Reli­gion, by disseminating Evil Princi­ples, by somenting Dissentions and Animosities, and by other Antichristian Practises, that Day at farthest will shew; when every one's Conscience, (if he hath any left) how drowsie soever it may be now, will be sure to awake, and tell him his own.


13. The Character of Charity which followeth is, That it beareth all Things. 'Twere more agree­able to render this place thus; Charity covereth or concealeth all Things, (which are done amiss;) for this seems here to be the most [Page 210] natural Sense of the Greek Word; the other Notion of it, which concerneth the bearing or suffering all Things, belonging rather to the last Character of Charity.

To lay Things to ones Charge, which he is not Guilty of, is very Unjust; to blame him upon meer Suspicion, is very Rash; and to divulge every Fault, though we certainly know it, is very Uncha­ritable.

In order to our due Practice as to this point, we are to note by way of Caution; That the Laws of Charity do not oblige us to conceal the Crimes of another in these five Cases:

1. Where the Criminal him­self hath made the Fact Noto­rious.

[Page 211] 2. Where the Interest of an whole Society is nearly concern'd.

3. Where Publick Justice ought to be done.

4. Where Charity to the Of­fender requires the taking notice of it.

5. Where the discovering of a Sin is absolutely necessary for ones own Vindication.

In all Cases the greatest Cha­rity must take place. But where the End of making anothers Faults known, is not Good, Necessary, Just, or Charitable, but Mean, and Hurtful rather, we should be as tender of a Neighbour's Fame, as of our own; and no more speak of his Crimes, than we durst dis­cover Secrets, which in Consci­ence and Honour we are bound to keep in the dark.

[Page 212] There are two great Reasons, for which Charity requires us to to be very careful of this.

1. That the divulging of ano­ther's Offences is so far from do­ing him any Good, that it is a probable way to harden him in a course of Wickedness. Shame is sometimes the strongest Bridle, to restrain People from Things that are of bad Report: If you take off that Check, there is no staying them; but they turn to their Course, as the Horse rusheth into the Battel, Jer. 8. 6. Nor is there a more ready means to make them Shameless, than to expose those Miscarriages to open view, which they cannot but like the less, because they are afraid of a Discovery: Private Admoniti­ons, if kindly and discreetly ten­dred [Page 213] to them themselves, often prove a successful Method of Re­claiming those who have as yet a Brow; because those Admonitions are an Argument of Friendship, which makes the softest and deep­est Impression: For which reason, saith our Saviour, Matth. 18. 15. If thy Brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. This is the most likely way to gain (or Re­form) him; whereas to proclaim, or whisper out his Faults, especi­ally to Persons unconcerned, and that too with Pleasure, and as a sort of Entertainment, is the ready means of rendring his Heart obdurate, and of making all Councels recoyl, as from a Flint: Because in this case, it is not Charity that speaks, but ill Nature, and a designing Mind. [Page 214] Many times it happens, that while a Man's Sins lie close under Co­vert, he is brought to a Sense and Reformation of them, by the pri­vate Convictions of Conscience, and by God's Blessing from the Pulpit. There is the greater En­couragement to amend, because he feareth not Reproach. But if he be brought upon the open Stage, and exposed to the Scof­fings of the Multitude; like a Deer hunted with a publick Cry, and brought at last to the Bay, 'tis odds but he will adventure upon any Dangers, the Clamors of the World will make him desperate; so that in stead of Reforming, he will pursue his Sins the more gree­dily, presuming that the future Pleasures, or Gainfulness of them, will pay something for the loss of his former Reputation.

[Page 215] 2. Besides the Mischief done to the Actor by Uncharitable Dete­ctions, no little Hurt is done to those to whom the Sin is told; which still confirms that of the Wise Man, Prov. 10. 12. Love co­vereth all Sins. By hearing of ill Things, People learn insensibly to do them; because there is a Contagion in all Wickedness; whereby the Minds of those to whom it is discovered, are infe­cted by degrees, if there be not a very strong Antidote to keep out the Pestilence, which is rarely pro­vided in those cases. For 'tis not usual with us to lend an Ear, but to Things we are very willing to hear of; and by this means an Evil Report doth naturally cast the stronger Influence, and doth naturally make the deeper Impres­sion, the Mind being disposed for [Page 216] it before-hand. Upon which ac­count, 'tis necessary for every good Man with all possible care to pre­serve his Ear from Infection, lest it pass through that to the Heart: For a Relation many times be­comes an Example; so that by being made acquainted with the Faults of others, People are much the worse themselves. The Sin is proposed for imitation, which the Tale-bearer seemeth to reprehend; it is like the opening of a Plague-Sore, which a Charitable Hand will be tender of doing, for fear of propagating the Disease. Our Minds are apt to be strangely wrought upon by every Thing about us, because there is not in our Nature that strong defensive Faculty, which is in some other Creatures. Fish indeed retain their fresh Taste, although they swim [Page 217] in the saltest Waters; but Hu­mane Nature is apt to participate of the Temper of the People, and of the Condition of the Climate where we live, and our Disposi­tions alter accordingly; just as Waters, which pass through the Channels of the Earth, vary their Savour with the Veins of the Soyls through which they slide. In a corrupt Place, 'tis an easie thing to be corrupted; and one great Reason is, because the Know­ledge of a Neighbour's Vices is apt to breed in another an Inclina­tion to the same Evils; it worketh in another presently and insen­sibly, if not a full Approbation, yet a less Dislike of those Corruptions, which their Eyes and Ears are used to the Sense of: So that when one comes to be familiarly ac­quainted with the Irreligious [Page 218] Courses of bad Neighbours, he is in a great Hazard; and 'tis great odds, if he doth not in time make those Courses his own Choice; because this is a great Encouragement to Vice, that it wants not a Precedent.

Therefore to express our Cha­rity in this case, let us carefully observe that Advice of the Son of Sirach, Ecclus. 19. 7, 8. Rehearse not unto another what is told unto thee, and thou shalt fare never the worse. Whether it be friend or foe, talk not of other Men's Lives; and if thou canst without Offence, reveal them not. For Charity-sake eve­ry Story is not to be told; for though it be true, it may be hurt­ful; though it be not hurtful in the first Report, it may be so in the consequence; because Fame is like the Cloud which the Pro­phet's [Page 219] Servant saw, 1 King. 18. 44. the further it spreads, the greater it grows, till there be no more comparison between its Original, and its Increase, than there is be­tween the breadth of a Man's Hand, and the Dimensions of the Firmament; and who can tell how Mischievous and Terrible the End will be? The Tongue is a world of Iniquity, saith St. James, ch. 3. v. 6. And for the preventing of a great deal, let me recommend these few Things in short to your Chari­table Practice.

With all possible Art and speed, stop the Mouths of those, who, like the old Athenians, spend their Time in nothing else, (for the most part) but either to tell, or to hear some new Thing, Act. 17. 21. In spight of good Neighbourhood, and Reli­gion [Page 220] too, some will wander about from House to House, Tatlers, Busie­bodies, speaking Things that they ought not, 1 Tim. 5. 13. The on­ly Business of such idle People is, to lay open the Lives of others, to stain their good Name, and to spoil the Savour of that which is better than precious Ointment; by casting in such dead Flies, as turn the Perfume into a Stink. And what Injuries come by this Evil Practice, not only to parti­cular Persons, but to whole So­cieties, is too too manifest. The least is that which Salomon mentions, (though that is too great, and sometimes irreparable,) a Whisperer separateth chief Friends, Prov. 16. 28. A good Remedy in this case is, to turn the Ear aside, and not suffer it to receive any hurtful Informa­tions. Such Stories are not wont [Page 221] to be told People that are deaf, because there the Ends of the Whisperer cannot be answered. 'Twould be an Effectual and Cha­ritable Means of destroying those Works of Darkness, to discourage the Authors of them, by letting them see, how Unprofitable their Works are in the first Practise.

If another's Sin chance to fall under thine Eye, express your Charity, by laying a Mantle over it with a quick Hand, that it may not indanger the rest by being exposed to publick View. It is thy Brother's Nakedness that is seen; and where there is such a shameful Spectacle, Love should imitate the Piety of Noah's two Sons, Shem and Japhet; who, that they might not cast the least glance upon their Father's Naked­ness, went backward with a Gar­ment [Page 222] upon their Shoulders; ven­turing rather their stumbling at his Feet, than they would behold his Shame. Cursed was Cham, that not content to have been an Eye-witness of the Indecent Sight, Scoff'd at it too, and became the Proclaimer of it.

If the Sin be so manifest that it cannot, or so foul that it must not be hid, express your Charity by speaking of it (and that with Pru­dence and Kindness also) to the Criminal himself, who is the Party concerned to Repent, and to mend his Life for the future. The way to cure a Flaw, is not to run to such as are whole, but to dress the Side where the Wound lieth. Though it be Oyl and Wine too, which you pour in there, the Smart is tolerable, because the Operation is proper; and the Hand [Page 223] that works, is Charitable and Friendly. Other Methods are to be avoided, because they always Fret, and very rarely Heal.

After all, in stead of discove­ring other Men's Faults, it is ne­cessary for every one to look into his own. And if People would but turn their Eyes homeward, they would find so much Em­ployment for them there, that they would have neither Need, nor Leisure to look abroad. There is in every Breast so much Nature, whatever there be of Grace, that our continual Care is necessary to Cleanse our selves from the one, and to Increase the other. Nor is this possible to be done, but by searching narrowly into ones own State; which if all Inquisitive Peo­ple would do, they could not but discover presently this one great [Page 224] Fault of their own, that by prying curiously after others, they have all along overlook'd themselves.


14. So far is Charity from de­lighting to reveal the Failings and Miscarriages of others, that St. Paul gives this further Chara­cter of a Charitable Person, that he believeth all Things; that is, all Things that are Good, and all Things that are Reasonable for a Good Man to believe. Credulity at large is no Virtue; or, if it be, 'tis no safe one; because 'tis so easie a matter to be deceiv'd; especially in Men, which upon the Weights are the most deceitful; and because it is sometimes such a woeful and calamitous Thing to be deceived indeed. There are many [Page 225] Dangers, which Religion doth not require us to run into, by Trust­ing without Reserve; and the Question may be Undeterminable, which of the two is most to be blamed, He that believes every Thing; or he that believes No­thing that is told him? On each hand it is not Charity, but Folly that is the Ascendant. The Apo­stle's meaning therefore is, That in Cases which are not plain and clear beyond just Reason of Doubtfulness, true Christian Cha­rity inclines one to believe favou­rably, and to Err rather on the right Hand, by entertaining a kind Opinion even when it is not apparently deserved. St. Paul, who so well understood the Operations of Virtue, was sensible what good Effects this is apt to produce; and how naturally it tendeth to [Page 226] make the Minds and Lives of People easie; and, on the con­trary, how hurtful it is to the Peace and Comfort of particular Men, and whole Societies, to take up hard Conceits without suffi­cient and plain Grounds; to run away with them, and to act upon them. Hatreds and Mischief fol­low in the end; witness those Outrages which he himself com­mitted, upon his own groundless Apprehensions. He believed once, that Jesus Christ was a Deceiver; and that his Disciples were a very Dangerous and Heretical Sect. Upon which false and groundless Principle, he verily thought with himself, that he ought to do many Things contrary to the Name of Je­sus of Nazareth, Act. 26. 9. And how fatal and mischievous was that one Thought to the Church [Page 227] of Christ? What a world of Vexa­tion and Misery did it not put them to? And yet all the while the People he Persecuted were In­nocent; and the Persecution was bottom'd upon nothing, but his own unreasonable and wild Pre­sumptions. Thus it is, when Men believe without Judgment and Candor; believe Evil Things up­on Evil Surmises, and side with Sinister Notions, as their first Ima­ginations and Passions sway them. Havock, and Outrage, are the usual Consequents; Peace, and a good Conscience, and Charity, and whatsoever else is desirable, all goes to wrack in the Storm, which sometimes cannot be al­layed without a Sacrifice of Blood too.

Now for the increasing in us a Spirit of Charity, and for the due [Page 228] expressing it as to this Point, this General Rule must be carefully, observed; To take Things always in the best Sense; and never to give way to Hard Thoughts, where there is room for kind or favourable Constructions. Many times indeed Men's Guilt appear­eth so foul and open, that the Evidence is too strong for those that are willing to be Scepticks in that particular. In which case, Charity no more requires you to believe contrary to your Experi­ence, than it binds you to discre­dit the Testimony of all your Senses. As, where People act ma­liciously every Day, in spight of all the Charity in the World; you cannot but look upon them as very ill Men. But where the Matter is doubtful and uncertain, Charity should always set it in the [Page 229] fairest Light; or rather I should say, in the darkest Corner, to blind the Guilt as much as is possible, and to hide it even from our own Eyes. Remember the Charity of the Lord Jesus upon the Cross, when his Blood-thirsty Enemies had now done their very worst against Him. One would have thought, their Malice was open enough: For Pilate himself was satisfied of his Innocence; He knew (saith the Evangelist) that for Envy they had delivered him, Mat. 27. 18. And yet to cover their Sin in some measure, He himself pleaded their Ignorance in that Charitable Prayer for them; Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, Luke 23. 34. Had it been possible, he could have found in his Heart to have con­cealed their Guilt from his Father's [Page 230] view. But God seeth the very Secrets of the Heart; all Things are naked and open to him, with whom we have to do. But this is one of God's incommunicable Attributes. We see at best but through a Glass; a dark and dim View; and our Sight is much the dimmer, when we would look into Men's Breasts, where we have no Glass at all to look through. Therefore where we are left to Conjecture, our Opinion should be on the Charitable side, because our Eye can have a direct Stroke upon the Principle of another's Action. Perhaps it was Inadver­tency; perhaps it proceeded from Ignorance; perhaps from com­mon Humane Frailties: Many Ex­cuses Charity will help us to find out, before we need charge it upon the Heart.

[Page 231] This General Rule, of putting the best Sense upon Men's Actions, being laid before you, I shall add these few Particulars for the bet­ter Practice of it. Not to be easie in believing the first Repre­sentations. By our daily Experi­ence we may find, that the first Account of Things is commonly the Falsest, because it is usually attended with Partiality, to pos­sess the Minds of People with a Prejudice before-hand; it is so in Men's relating Things of others, especially of their Superiors in Church or State; Partiality is ne­ver wanting there. Some have a sort of Itch, both in their Minds and Tongues, to speak Evil of those they care not for. Upon which account, when an ill Thing is offered to our Belief, before Credit be given to a foul Story, [Page 232] we should consider, Whether the Suggestion may not proceed from Hearts which are touch'd with a Disease somewhat resembling the Botch of Egypt, Many are apt to take up hard Opinions upon Trust; which is not only Uncha­ritable, but Unrighteous too: Because the Party is thereby rifled of his Reputation at all adven­tures. If the Story be false, the Injustice is manifest; if it be but probable, there is Probability a­gainst it too; if it be altogether uncertain, it is not Judgment, but Partiality, that Governs the Belief of it: And after all, if Accusa­tions be enough, every Man must lie at Mercy for his Innocence, though his own Conscience ac­quit him. 'Tis necessary there­fore in all ill Reports, to suspend ones Perswasion till the Truth [Page 233] appears; and rather to be for the Charitable Sense, because to be sure no Wrong is done in that case; whereas Judgment is Iniqui­ty when it passeth upon Surmise; and he that Suffers by the Sen­tence, Suffers not for his own, but for another's Fault; that is, for another's too quick and rash Judgment.

In short, That Charity may make us believe all the Good we hear, and hardly any thing but what is Good; let it teach our Hearts to be in Love with Peace. Reports, whether they be true or false, are disquieting, and what­ever the first Design of them be, the End is Quarrel; a Mischief that is attended with such a Train of ill Consequences, that we can­not be too careful in using our utmost Endeavours to choak the [Page 234] Original Cause. Study to be quiet, and to do your own business, saith St. Paul, 1 Thess. 4. 11. If Men's Hearts and Hands were thus ho­nestly and wisely employed, it would be a concise, but a very effectual way of setting their Ears and Tongues much more at rest.


15. The Fifteenth Character of Charity is, That it hopeth all Things. As by the former Description St. Paul shews, how we are to think as to Things present, or past; so by this he directs us, what Thoughts we are to entertain as to the future. However Men be represented, or may appear, we must not despair of them, or give them utterly for gone, as Repro­bates [Page 235] and Castaways; undone and lost to all Eternity. The Reasons of this are taken from the Office of Charity; which is, to do all the Good we can in every re­spect.

1. Now, first, to account a Man past all Recovery, is the ready way to supersede the use of those Means, which in ordinary Cases are thought fit and proper to bring People to Repentance. Cha­rity is a most Active and Zealous Grace, especially when it is con­cern'd about a Soul. No good Methods are wanting there, as long as there are Hopes. True Charity is apt to use Reprehen­sions, Reasonings, Counsels, Warn­ings, Prayers; every Thing that the miserable Creature needs; and sometimes the greatest Pains are [Page 236] little enough; I am loth to say, too little. But all is thought su­perfluous, and to no purpose, in a Case that is judged desperate: All Endeavours, as well as Hopes, are given over; because none will undertake a Task, which he verily believes impossible: It would be all one, as if he should Preach or Pray over a Rock, with a vain Design to remove it out of its Place with his Breath. It is a great Discouragement even to a Charitable Man, to have to do with those, whose Spirits and Courses are wicked, though they make great Professions of Reli­gion: And their Case is the more deplorable, if they trust in them­selves that they are Righteous, while their Hearts and Souls are out of frame. Yet an Hypocrite may be Reclaimed, though with [Page 237] much difficulty. The Shame of the World, or the Gnawings of Conscience, or the Melancholy Circumstances of a Sick Bed, or the Frightful Prospect of Hell, or some outward extraordinary Judgment, may in time bring him to a sense of his sad Condition. Captivity and Chains humbled Manasseh himself; and one day God will be too hard for the sturdiest Sons of Belial.

Now, as long as there are some, though but faint and glimmering Hopes, there are some Encou­ragements, such as they be. But for Labour, which Men think will be certainly and utterly lost, they can find no Reason; and this is one great Mischief which comes by Uncharitableness of this kind, that it damps the Minds and En­deavours of Men, and violently [Page 238] hinders the carrying on of the Cause of the Son of God.

2. But, Secondly, more than this; such desperate Perswasions touching the forlorn State of others, are a most powerful Temptation to those Uncharitable Wretches, to Treat them with the extreamest Outrage, who have the ill Luck to fall under their deadly Sentence. Witness those Cruelties which have been acted by some Romanists, as they have had the Power in their Hands over such as they are pleased to call Hereticks. How false soever the Premisses be, the Consequence is Natural. For how can any gentle Dealings be expected by those, who are presumed by these Zealots to be in a Damned State? If God hath Cursed them, why may not they? If God hath con­signed [Page 239] them to Eternal Flames, why may not such as think so, cast them into the Fire here? This they believe, is but the beginning of God's Work; and where is the Fault, if they do like God? It is thus in all Cases, where Men have the confidence to Usurp Christ's Authority, and to Judge before the time; whom they will, they Save; and whom they can, they Punish; with this Difference, That in the midst of Wrath, they think not, as God doth, upon Mercy.

Alas! what becomes all this while of the great Christian Rule, Charity hopeth all Things? And the best it can of all Men? Charity requires us to do others all the Good Offices which lie in our Power; and when all is done, the same Charity doth bind us also to [Page 240] leave every one to stand or fall to his own Master. Lord! that any Men should proceed to that sinful degree of Immoderation and In­solence, as to confine all true Re­ligion within a Party; and to make another's Dissent the Infal­lible Mark of an Apostate and Re­probate. 'Tis well for us all, that a Good God governs the World; that he hath the Custody of our Souls; and that he is to be the Judge, who was the Redeemer of them: For were we to determine one another's final Lot, who is there almost that could be saved? Suppose there were Five hundred Parties in the World, after this rate it would be Five hundred to Nothing, but every Man would be Damned, because each Party would Damn all but it self; and if that were Damned too by Four [Page 241] hundred ninety and nine, it would be very great Fortune for it to escape. Now, what is all this, but to thrust the Lord Jesus out of his Throne, and for us to leap upon the Bench, who must our selves be Arraigned at his Tribunal? In the Name of God, let us all walk by the same Rule, and hope the best of all Men. Perhaps we may be sometimes mistaken in our Hopes; but an Error of that kind hath an easie Pardon, if it stands in any need of it: I am sure we can be no Losers by our Charity. Our Case may be de­sperate for want of it, especially if our Uncharitableness drive us on to kindle Eternal Fires for our Brethren: There the Loss is likely to be Infinite, without any esca­ping. We shall perish our selves by the Flames which we have [Page 242] raised; as the King of Babylon's Servants did, Dan. 3. 22. when they threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, into the burning fiery Furnace. Judge not, saith our Blessed Saviour, that ye be not judged: For with what Judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what Measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again, Mat. 7. 1, 2. St. Paul himself, though he had such abundance of Revelations; yet he durst not take upon him to pass Sentence, no not upon profess'd Infidels: What have I to do to judge them that are without? 1. Cor. 5. 12. They and all Man­kind must be left to God's Tribu­nal, who is the only Searcher of Hearts; the only Judge that know­eth Infallibly who is, or shall be his. His Mercies are infinite, his Paths are as yet past finding out: His [Page 243] Ways are not as our Ways, nor are his Thoughts as our Thoughts: For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are his Ways higher than our Ways, and his Thoughts than our Thoughts, Isa. 55. 8, 9. He hath indeed affix'd a dreadful Penalty to his Laws, especially under the Gospel: But whether he hath not reserved to himself a Power of Remitting the Penalty, in some special and extraordinary Cases, is to us a Secret. There is indeed but one ordinary and strait Path to Heaven, by Faith and true Re­pentance; yet who can tell, but that the Wisdom and Providence of God may bring it so about, that some little By-Paths, wherein People of good and honest Minds, though of different Perswasions, do go now, may in the end fall into the ready Road? There is [Page 244] indeed this Doom annexed to the Promulgation of the Gospel, He that believeth not, shall be damned; and yet Charity will not suffer us to pass the Sentence of Eternal Ruine, either upon those Children which die Unbaptized; or upon that vast Number of poor well-meaning Heathens, who never heard of Christ; and therefore lived and died in Infidelity. For ought we know, God may have some secret Ways of applying the Merits of Jesus Christ to the Souls of some People, whom Censo­rious and Uncharitable Wretches look upon now, as utterly lost and gone. In all Cases we should judge Charitably of others, as hoping for a favourable Judgment our selves: And if in our Cha­rity we chance to err, 'tis an Error on the Right Hand however; and [Page 245] rather to be ventured on, than a rigid Truth, if it be uncertain. In Heaven there are many Man­sions; room enough to hold us all, if all of us will make it our business to get thither. But the loss of my Neighbour's Glory will not make any addition unto mine; and therefore we should wish, that the whole World may be saved. Till we are better ac­quainted with the Counsels of God, we must take heed, how we determine the Bounds of Men's Habitations to Eternity, or set out their Lots. Remember they are your Brethren; Men for whom Christ died, and for whom God may have Mercy in store, whatever others rashly think. And certainly you may well afford them your Charity, whom God himself, for ought you know, [Page 246] may youchsafe with Everlasting Salvation.

To express then our Charity aright as to this particular, we should never quite despair of any Men, nor give over all Endea­vours for them, as if their Con­dition were altogether desperate; but use such Means, as are neces­sary and proper to bring the most miserable Wretches to a Sense of their true State. For who know­eth, but one time or other God may give a Blessing to our La­bours? Who knoweth but perad­venture he will give such Souls Repentance to the acknowledg­ment of the Truth, that they may recover themselves out of the Snare of the Devil? These are true Expressions of Charity in­deed, to be always one the Work­ing hand; to be still upon apply­ing [Page 247] Means, upon using Endea­vours, to let our hearty Wishes and Prayers accompany our En­deavours, and so to leave the Suc­cess of all to God; and all Man­kind, especially our Brethren in the Common Faith; to God's merciful Judgment; hoping and thinking the best we can of them to the very last.


16. This being sufficiently con­sidered, I come at length to the Sixteenth and last Character, which St. Paul gives in this his Descrip­tion of Charity; that it Endureth all Things: That is, it teacheth and helps us to be Patient under all our Sufferings. Howsoever we fall into a Suffering Condition; whether by the particular Provi­dence [Page 248] of God, for our Tryal and Correction; or by the Rage and Power of Tyrants, for Truth and Righteousness-sake; or by some Infirmity, or Distemper in our Na­ture; or by some outward Con­tingence; or by the Wickedness of private Men; by their Pride, Covetousness, Revengeful Tem­pers, and the like; or by means of the different Perswasions, which others entertain about Matters of Religion. Whensoever, and how­soever any Things happen to us, which are Grievous and Afflictive, we should endure them; so as becomes Men trained up under a Suffering Saviour, with Temper, and Fortitude, and patient Conti­nuance in Well-doing.

The Apostle hath very fitly placed this Character of Charity last; for Patience is a Virtue [Page 249] that followeth others in the Rear. Notwithstanding all our Virtues, our Lot may be to Suffer at last; and therefore we have need to be armed with Patience after all. Ye have need of Patience, that after ye have done the Will of God, ye may receive the Promise, Heb. 10. 36.

The Truth is, it is a Virtue that is attended with a great Retinue; as, with Meekness, Humility, Self-Denial, Charity, Modesty, Peace­ableness of Mind; Christian Mag­nanimity, Constancy, Piety, Pru­dence, and the like: For without these, it is impossible to be Patient after a Christian manner, especial­ly when Injuries and Indignities are beyond the common Size. But at this time, I shall discourse of it only as it bears relation to Cha­rity.


[Page 250] Now any one that duly consi­ders the various Injuries which are done by Men of Unquiet and Stormy Tempers, may easily dis­cern how perfective of Charity this Virtue is.

1. Impatient People are not so much as Friends to themselves. Though one would think they were secure of their own Affecti­ons; and their Unquietness seems to argue, that they have very lit­tle Affection for any else; yet in Reality they are their own most hurtful Enemies. Every cross Ac­cident puts them upon the Fret; and the more active and busie their Thoughts are, the greater still is the Fermentation: Either Pride, or Envy, or Covetousness, or Intemperance; nay, many times bare Imagination, helps to raise [Page 251] the Distemper of the Mind to such an high pitch, that it termi­nates in Frenzy, or in a Symptome that is very like it: And what Comfort can there be in such a ones Life, where there is so much Uproar? Or what Peace and Complacency can there be in a Mind, which upon every Breath of Air falls into an Agitation, and is Rolling and Restless, like the Waves of the Sea, which in a Tempest yields nothing but Noise and Foam, besides the danger of Shipwracks? Patience keeps a Calm upon the Coast; so that there is either a perfect Serenity, or, at worst, but a little Cloud; which upon deliberate Thoughts doth soon vanish: And by this means, the rest of the Divine Graces con­tinue in an indisturbed Condition, and the Soul becomes every day [Page 252] more and more fruitful in Good Works; like the Halcyon, (to which some Divines have compa­red the Church) a Sea-Bird, whose only Breeding-time is in a great Tranquility.

2. It were the better, if Impa­tient Spirits did injure none but themselves: That Wrong they are bound to bear, if they will bear any thing. But the Mischief of this Vice is, That it loves to be Vexatious and Hurtful to all that are round about it. A petulant, froward piece of Carnality; that is ready at hand to Avenge the Quarrel of every other Lust, and to be an Executioner in its Cause. Hence come Malicious Designs; Uncharitable Constructions; Op­probrious Speeches; Revengeful Arts; Studied Oppressions; Un­necessary [Page 253] Suits at Law; Sangui­nary Proceedings; and most of those Wicked and Mean Things, which are a Disgrace to Humane Nature, as well as Religion; and a Nusance to all Societies. The Patient Man doth not lay and throw about him after a spightful manner, or to base Ends, or with vile and lewd Purposes; because there is a Principle of true Gene­rosity, and a Spirit of Fortitude and Constancy which he acteth upon. This makes his Mind great, and sets him much above those Odious and Low Methods which are plain Arguments of a Mind that is Sordid and Degene­rate. 'Tis infinitely Greater to bear a Wrong, than to do it. The Poorest and most Contemptible Creature can annoy; but 'tis the Man only, and the Christian, that [Page 254] passeth it by, disdaining to be mo­ved out of himself; especially by those ordinary and common Pro­vocations, which are rather Ima­ginary, than Real Injuries. I in­stance in Words; which are wont to make as deep, if not deeper Impressions, than the Hand: Yet they neither impoverish Land, nor break the Skin; no not that about the Ear: So that thus far there is no Real Harm done. And if they touch the Soul, (as some times they do to the very Quick) the Fault is indeed in our selves; because it is our own Passion that sharpens them, and makes their ready way to the Heart; Which, were it fortified with Patience, would turn it off with an easie and safe Hand; as a Bolt shot from a weak Man's Mouth; and then there would be no harm [Page 255] there neither. These Things are Ob­vious; and were it only for want of Philosophy, that People know not how to avoid Nettles, there would be some Excuse for those, who have not been blest with a Liberal Education. But the com­mon Reason of all Mankind can tell us, that when we are Affected by a Foolish Expression, the Sting comes rather from our own Fan­cy, than from a few Syllables; and that the Hurt we feel, is in the Imagination, that Works powerfully, but too rashly upon the Brutish Appetite, to seek Re­venge and Satisfaction for Trifles. In Patience possess ye your Souls, saith our Saviour, Luke 21. 19. It is a certain way to be Easie in the World, and to the World; which I am sure is no little piece of Charity. Considering the vast [Page 256] Disadvantages which come to Mankind by our Boisterous Pas­sions, and the Common Hurt which one single Person may do to a great many by them, hardly can any particular Man endure too much: Even a Real Injury to himself is to be born with Pati­ence, till great Charity requires him to seek for some Redress, and that too must be done with a Charitable Mind, and after as just and as kind a manner as may be. And after all, it should be consi­dered, that the Reparation gotten may not answer the Damage, wherein a Man involves himself and others, for want of Patience at first.

3. There is yet a third Reason, why Charity should teach us to endure all Things; and it is taken [Page 257] from the Kindness we owe even those our Enemies, that bring us into Affliction, and perhaps de­signedly. As Unjust as they be, Christian Charity obligeth us to do our best, to bring them to a Sense of their Wickedness, that so they may be led to Repen­tance. Now Patience is a very probable means of bringing this about, because it is a most amiable Virtue; and the Sight of it is very moving, very apt to work upon the Affections. It is enough to make a deep Impression upon any Hearts, that do not consist of Iron, or Flint, to see Men take it patiently when they do well, and yet suffer for it. Compassion is many times a much stronger. Thing than Argument; and it hath often made the Spirits of Cruel Men relent, when hardly [Page 258] any Thing else could. It is in­deed a common Saying, That by bearing one Injury, you do invite and encourage wicked People to load you with more. But such Instances are very rare, where there is a true Sense of Religion, or Huma­nity; and those Natures must needs be very foul and dreggy, which take Delight and Pleasure in heaping up Injuries upon Inju­ries: Yet even in that case, Time and Patience do Miracles; be­cause Conscience, if it stirs once, is a very troublesome Thing to a Wicked Man, and that which makes the pursuing of Mischief a very troublesome Work; so that many times base Inten­tions tire of themselves, when the Patience of an Innocent Oppressed Person holds out; and they tire the sooner by it. Witness the [Page 259] great Changes which were made in the Minds of Persecutors, chiefly, if not merely, by the wonderful Patience of Christians in the Pri­mitive Ages. Tiberian the Presi­dent of Palestine sent the Emperor Trajan word, That he was weary of his Proceedings Usher Ap­pend. Ignat. p. 9. against the Galileans; (as Christians were then commonly called:) Their Invincible Cou­rage, and Constancy, and Calm­ness of Minds, notwithstanding all their sharpest Sufferings, made multitudes of the Heathens, not only weary of Persecuting them, but weary too of their own Prin­ciples; for they concluded, that Religion was from God indeed, for which such vast Numbers of Men and Women did suffer the most exquisite Torments with un­shaken Minds, and evenness of [Page 260] Temper; without any Transport, unless it were of Joy for their Tribulations. Justin Martyr con­fesseth, that it was the Thing that Converted him to Chri­stianity, Apol. 1▪ p. 50. For (saith he) when I saw the Christians go to their Torments and Deaths so Ʋndauntedly, I thought it impossible that such People should live in Wickedness, and the Love of Pleasures; because it concerns all Vicious and Voluptuous Persons to avoid Death. Their Unconquer­able Patience was an Argument that Truth was on their side; and this made Proselites even of their Enemies; so that in times of Per­secution their Numbers increased. For which reason that Politick Emperor Julian, that hated Chri­stianity so, many times hindred its Professors from being put to Death, because their Patience [Page 261] wrought such wonderful Effects upon the Hearts of the very Pa­gans. Where Patience is, there is God; the Power and Spirit of God: And who knoweth how soon, and how powerfully that Holy Spirit may work upon the Hearts even of the Children of Disobedience.

I told you before, That the Law of Charity ties us to endure all Things with Patience; however Troubles come upon us, whether by the Injustice and Enmity of some; or by means of the diffe­rent Perswasions of others, con­cerning Matters of Religion: And before I shut up this Discourse, it will be necessary for me to say something upon that Point of Charity.

Any one may see, how vastly Prejudicial it is to the Peace and [Page 262] Interest, not only of particular Persons, but of the Publick State, that even those whom we may reasonably presume to be Pious and Sincere Christians, cannot differ in their Judgments as to some Opinions that are in Vogue; but on each side, they are ve­ry hardly thought, and very hardly spoke of. Nay, as if the Persecutions of the Tongue were not keen enough, the Unchari­tableness of Heady People hath proceeded to Confiscations and Flames also.

Before I go on upon this Theme, I must lay down these two Cautions:

1. That I do not take upon me to Prescribe to the Civil Magi­strate, whose Office it is to look after the Good of the whole Com­munity; [Page 263] what is most Necessary or Prudent for him, whether to per­mit, or to prohibit Differences of Opinion, I do not presume to De­fine here. Nor,

2. Is it my Meaning, That all Opinions should pass abroad without Lett or Contradiction, though they directly tend, some of them, to Subvert the Foun­dation of the common Christian Faith, or to corrupt Good Man­ners, or to destroy or injure Hu­mane Societies.

But when Men are not Legisla­tors for others, but Judges for themselves only; when Points are knotty and Disputable, and hard to be clearly determined; and when Opinions are harmless e­nough, especially while they lodge in the Minds of peaceable and [Page 264] modest Men; we should express our Charity to each other, by al­lowing every one the Liberty of his own private Judgment, with­out denying those of a different Perswasion from us, either our Communion, or our Affections. 'Tis unreasonable to make Opi­nions Arguments to set up strait a separate Party; and to use them as the Men of Gilead did the word Shibboleth, Judg. 12. 6. for a Note of Discrimination between a Friend and an Enemy. Opinions should keep their own proper Station in the Brain, without Tainting the Heart; and tho' in some Points we have various Perswasions, as the Members of the Body have various Uses and Offices; yet Christian Charity should be like one Common Soul, to Animate, to Influence, and to Comfort the [Page 265] whole. The Reasons of it are many; but I shall mention only these Two, as sufficient Grounds for our Mutual Charity in this case.

1. There are a great many Doctrines, which are not ordina­rily necessary to Salvation; and consequently we cannot suppose them to be Revealed to us after such a clear manner, as necessary Things are: Yet these are for the most part those Doctrines which have made so much Noise, and done so much Mischief in the World. The Way to Heaven is obvious enough, and easie to be discover'd; viz. By believing the plain, common, and standing Ar­ticles of Christianity; and by leading a Godly, Righteous, and Sober Life. But there are divers [Page 266] By Speculations that are Intricate, and some of them hardly worth the Time and Pains bestowed on them; because the Enquiry is af­ter Things, that are not only re­mote from our Faculties, but very distant too from our great and necessary Business. And what do we get by all our Enquiries after Matters that are thus Foreign and Dark? Truly very little: Perhaps a slight Transitory Glimpse at the long run, which brings something of present Pleasure to the Fancy, but nothing of real Advantage to the poor Soul. 'Tis pity indeed that Men should trifle away their precious Time thus: But if they will be at so much Pains for no­thing but a little Delight for the time, methinks 'tis pity too, that other wiser Men should be so Un­charitable, as to begrudge them [Page 267] that after all their hard Labours: Nor is there any Reason for those Heats and Animosities about Things that are out of our way to Everlasting Rest. For why should I Condemn or Hate ano­ther, because I conceive he Erreth in such and such Points, when God hath not peremptorily required either him or me to know them at all; but both of us may be ig­norant of them with safety? Ma­ny fierce Disputes, and hot Words, have pass'd between Lutherans and Calvinists abroad, and between ma­ny of our selves here at home; and that about Things not neces­sary to Salvation. And what have Men gained by all this, but the Vain-glory of having been very warm Disputants on each hand? Charity would give us all a far better Title: I am sure it [Page 268] would Intitle us to a far better Place, which we are concerned to strive how to gain, infinitely more than to turn Digladiators about Logick and Metaphysicks, and to run the hazard of Sacrificing all in a foolish Quarrel, who hath the best Skill in managing the Sword's Point; where there is no need at all of any such Weapon. Where a Thing is doubtful, we should fair­ly propose our Thoughts, and of­fer the Reasons for them; and so let it rest, with Hearts full of Cha­rity on both sides. I doubt not but many good Christians have arrived at the Gate of Paradise, notwithstanding some slight Er­rors they happen'd to entertain by the way. As long as an Error doth not hurt the Foundation, nor gives Encouragement to a Wicked Life, nor destroys Cha­rity; [Page 269] I do not understand, but a Person so erring may well be saved; though he suffers the loss of the Hay and Stubble, which through Ignorance and Unskilful­ness he built upon the right sound Faith.

2. As all Doctrines are not equally necessary, and manifest, so all Men's Apprehensions are not of an equal Capacity, nor their Op­portunities and Means of Know­ledge equal neither. I will not enter into that nice Dispute, whether all Souls are equal? This is certain, that the more or less the Advantages of Education are, the more or less is a Man's Judgment and Faculties improved. Some Men may live in more Learned Times, or be bless'd with more Skilful Instructers, or be furnish'd [Page 270] with more useful Books; or may find out a better Method, or may be encouraged with greater Re­wards, or may search after Mat­ters with more Impartiality, and freedom of Thought. Divers ways it happeneth, that as one Man exceedeth another in Stature, so one Man excelleth another in Knowledge too. And would it not be monstrous Impatience, not to endure to see another's Bulk? And to fall foul upon him, be­cause he is not of an equal Growth with his Neighbour? Or because he is not of the same Aspect, of the same Features and Lineaments with his Neighbour? Why, the Uncharitableness is such when one quarrels with another, because he hath not the same pitch of Understanding with his Neigh­bour; and because he is not of [Page 271] the same Measure in his Capaci­ties, and of the same Judgment in all Things. He may truly love God, and God may everlastingly love him; though his Sense in a Controversie be different from anothers, who loves, and is belo­ved of God too: At best we see but through a Glass; and our Sight is very dim in comparison. It may happen that ones Eye may be naturally very weak, that he cannot, no not by the help of the Glass, see Things so well as ano­ther doth: Or perhaps there may be a little Habitual Prejudice in the case, which like an Eye trou­bled with the Jaundise, may dis­colour the Object, and present it to the Understanding with a little Tincture upon it: Or though the Sense it self be sound and clear, yet there may be some Specks in [Page 272] the very Glass. And the Result of all is this; That we are at the very best but Men, subject to Er­rors and Misapprehensions: And why should you be Uncharitable to another Man, and not bear with his Infirmities, because God hath made him a Man, and not an Angel? In short, one Man seeth more, and further than another, and to Persecute him for this, to be Impatient and Uncharitable for this, would be such Cruelty, as if I should cut off his Head, be­cause it is higher than mine own.

Before I let this Consideration go, I cannot but Reflect upon the Wretched Uncharitableness of those, who are so out of patience at all Dissentings in Religion, that they even kill Men for Heresie, whatever Gensures such deserve, [Page 273] they ought to be Spiritual; and such Censures are Charitable. I will add, that whatever a Prince may do in such a case, to secure the publick Peace, which he is bound in Conscience to provide for; yet for Heresie alone, and if it be not aggravated with any Criminal Actions, he ought not to inflict upon any the Punishment of Death. The first Instance we find of this Nature, was the kil­ling of Priscillian and his Accom­plices about the Year 385: But it was done by Maximus that Cruel Prince, that destroyed some Here­ticks, and Catholicks too, without Discrimination. And Sulpitious Severus gives this Account of the Fact: Hoc modo homines Luce in­dignissimi pessimo exemplo necati sunt; ‘Though the Men deserv'd not to see the Light, yet the kil­ling [Page 274] of them was a most Evil Example.’ An Example that in latter Ages hath been scandalously followed by the Church of Rome; and 'tis the more to be Lamented, because some furious Protestants followed it too. The Burning of Servetus at Geneva was a Fact, which the best Men of the Refor­mation would never go about to Justifie: And the Author of the History of the Council of Trent tell us; It was to the Admiration of many, that the First Reformers did shed Blood in the Cause of Religion. The Truth is, such is the Spirit and Genius of Right Christianity, that it savours of nothing but what is Pure and Desireable; such as Meekness, Patience, Humility, Goodness: And with these most amiable Virtues; Love, Charity, Peaceableness, Moderation, Gentle­ness, [Page 275] Mercy, and great Tender­ness of Temper. Though Cha­rity it self may sometimes hold out a Rod, to terrifie People from those Scandalous Disorders, which Kindness alone cannot many times put a stop to; yet to Vindicate even the true Faith with the cut­ting Arguments of Steel, or by the Torments of the Stake, is a Sign rather of a Barbarous, than a Religious and Christian Mind. Such Burning and Flaming Zeal as this, the gentle Spirit of Christ doth not kindle.

I have now ended the Consi­deration of those things, which I proposed at my Entrance upon this Discourse concerning Charity, and in the most Useful (because the most Practical) Part of it; I have, as near as I could, trod in [Page 276] the Steps of St. Paul himself, who left us no less than Fifteen several Characters of Charity, as a parti­cular Direction for us, how to express this most Necessary, Chri­stian, and Comprehensive Virtue. It is one great Argument of the Truth of Christianity, that as its Doctrines are Reconcileable unto, so the Duties of it are Founded upon the best Reason; and are for the most part adapted to the Ne­cessities and Interests of Humane Societies. This particular Duty of Charity is one, without which Societies cannot possibly subsist; not in that happy Condition, to be sure, which Christianity hath an Eye upon in the Duties it lays before us; if we were so wise, as to consider and see where our Real Good lieth, even in this World. The Motions whether [Page 277] or Virtue, or Vice, carry a great Stroke with them; and affect not our selves only, but those also that are round about us. And when the Apostle delineated this Virtue, Charity, it was upon great Consideration, both of the Good Effects which attend it, and of those very Evil Consequences which follow the several Vices to which Charity stands in opposition, and they to it. Hence it was, that in shewing you the several ways of expressing your Charity, I was concerned of course, and neces­sity, to take some Notice of those Operations and Consequences, which Argue the great Reasona­bleness of your Practice as to this particular. And hence too it was, that in speaking of those Opera­tions, I have used all possible Plainness for every ones Convi­ction; [Page 278] and this, in pursuance of St. Paul's great Design, to bring all our Hearts to a right Christian, and Charitable Temper; the Thing that is above all Things; the Thing that we must mind very dili­gently, if we expect ever to be saved.

We must not think to prescribe to our selves the Way to Salva­tion; but we must take the Con­ditions of it at the Hand of God, who alone hath a Right and Power to propose them; and who alone knoweth which is the best way for us. And Charity is the Way that he hath laid out before us in the Holy Scripture: The same Jesus Christ, that hath brought Life and Immortality to Light through the Gospel, hath also revealed this as a Means of bringing us to that Life Immor­tal: [Page 279] So that we must take the whole Revelation as it is; and as well make the one part of it the Measure of our Practice, as we make the other the Ground of our Faith and Hopes; because the very same Revelation which gives us Authority to believe a future Blessed State, shews us like­wise the Necessity of a Charitable Temper in order to it. There is one and the same Warrant for both; and for that reason we must believe both, or neither.

Indeed 'tis very Suspicious, that Uncharitable People believe very little of God, and a future State, (whatever they pretend) at least that they think not of these Things with that Seriousness and Inten­tion of Mind, which is necessary to prepare them for the Practice of Charity: For such Divine [Page 280] Thoughts could not but affect them, and work powerfully upon them, did they really believe, (what is most certainly true) that by wanting Charity, they must needs come short of Heaven.

Charity is as indispensably ne­cessary as Faith, or as any other Act of Religion. And that we may apply our Hearts in good earnest to the Study and Exercise of it, let us at the close of this Subject consider briefly this one Thing only, besides those Motives which have been considered al­ready: Namely, What an Ʋncom­fortable Condition People of Un­charitable Spirits involve them­selves in continually. How great soever their Health, or Strength, or Fortunes, or their other outward Enjoyments may be, they are the most miserable People in the [Page 281] World; because all this while they are in an Unpardon'd State: They go about with all their Sins bound, and in danger of Eternal Damnation every moment; for God is their Enemy, and they his. The Words of our Saviour are plain, Matth. 6. 15. If ye forgive not Men their Trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your Trespas­ses. And to the same purpose saith the Disciple of his Bosom, 1 John 3. 14. He that loveth not his Brother, abideth in Death. Hence it follows, that the Ordinances of God, though they be the standing Means of Grace and Salvation, do such Uncharitable People no man­ner of Good, but Hurt rather; which is a great addition to their Misery. The Hearing of God's Word doth but increase their Guilt. The Sacraments of Christ's [Page 282] Body and Blood are like Poison to their Souls; and their very Prayers, which of all People they have most need to send up unto Heaven day and night, are so far from availing them, that they are turned into Abomination, Prov. 28. 9. And what if Death should sur­prise such People unawares, such Accidents do commonly happen; nor is any Man secure, but his Turn shall be the next, to drop into the Grave on a sudden. And what a desperate Condition doth he drop into, who falls thus un­awares with his Conscience bur­dened with such a heavy Sin, and in a State of Enmity against the Laws of God, and against the Saviour of the World? It had been good for that Man, had he not been born, Mat. 26. 23.

[Page 283] But 'tis more than probable, that Uncharitable Wretches sel­dom think of Dying, much less of dying a sudden Death; though Apoplexies, and unexpected Acci­dents happen every where, and are Daily Monitors to us all. Let them presume then, that some Lingering Disease will seize them at the last, and allow them some Time, to prepare for another Life. But what if they have not an Heart to Prepare themselves duly then, though they may have Time? 'Tis possible for Men to Sin away the Grace of God, and the Day of Salvation. 'Tis pos­sible to harden the Heart so, as to render it Uncapable of Good Im­pressions. 'Tis possible also to pro­voke the Holy and Just God, to such an high degree, as that he will refuse to Soften and Intender [Page 284] it, and to listen to their Cries, that would not call upon him while he was near. They are dreadful Threatnings, Prov. 1. from Vers. 24. to Vers. 30. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my Hand, and no Man regarded it. But ye have set at nought all my Counsel, and would none of my Reproof. I also will laugh at your Calamity, and will mock when your Fear cometh. When your Fear cometh as Desolation, and your De­struction cometh as a Whirlwind; when Distress and Anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated Knowledge, and did not choose the Fear of the Lord. This I fear is the usual Re­sult of Habitual Wickedness; and especially of Men's living in a [Page 285] course and habit of Uncharitable­ness; because it is a Sin (or ra­ther a Complication of Sins) so Diametrically opposite to the Laws of Jesus Christ, and to the Spirit of his Religion, that of all others now, it seemeth to come the nearest to the very Sin against the Holy Ghost.

But suppose such People should at last express some Grief and Sor­row for their Wicked Temper, and for those manifold Injuries and Mischiefs, which are the usual Effects of Uncharitableness; yet who can tell, whether this Sor­row proceedeth from the Love of God, and from a true Sense and Hatred of the Sin; or whe­ther it doth not come merely from an Apprehension of those Torments whereof their Consci­ences are now afraid? If it be [Page 286] only the Fear of Punishment which extorteth those Expressions, this is very consistent with an Evil Mind; that would act over the same Sins again, could they but renew their Lives. And therefore this Sor­row is no better than Nothing in God's Account; because it is not such a Godly Sorrow, as worketh Re­pentance unto Salvation not to be repented of, 2 Cor. 7. 10.

Let it be granted, Lastly, That the Sorrow is Genuine and Sin­cere, yet little Comfort can come by it to the Dying Person, be­cause he hath no Time now to try, whether his Mind be changed in­deed, and whether he be become a New Man, and a New Creature. So that at the best, his Case is very bad, because, though he be a True Penitent, yet it is more than he knows; and consequently nei­ther [Page 287] can his Comfort be solid, nor can his Hopes of Pardon be built upon a sure Foundation.

In such a Labyrinth of Misery doth an Uncharitable Temper plunge every inconsiderate Wretch, that the Pleasure he takes, and the Profit he gets by Acts of Malice and Revenge, doth not counter­vail the Thousandth Part of those Calamities and Dangers he expo­seth himself to unavoidably.

Therefore it deeply concerns us all, to be Wise in time, to mend in time, to Subdue and Rectifie our Dispositions in time, and to new-mould our Hearts into a Resemblance of that Holy and Excellent Being, who is a God of Compassion, the Father of Mercies; the Author of Peace, and the Lover of Concord. Men may fancy what they please; but [Page 288] I take it for a certain Truth, that according as our Tempers are, either Good or Evil, so God loves or hates us; and so our Portion will be at the last. If any Man have not the Spirit of Christ, (that is, the Dis­position and Temper of Christ) he is none of his, faith St. Paul, Rom. 8. 9. And what was Christ's Spirit, but a Spirit of Love? His Doctrines tended to Peace and Charity. His Miracles were Cha­ritable; he shewed his Power, as God doth, in doing Works of Pity and Compassion: He went about doing Good. And when his Hands and Feet were now Nailed to the Cross, and hindred from doing any more, he employed his Tongue and Heart in a Work of the greatest Charity of all; in sending up a Charitable Prayer for the Pardon of his Enemies.

[Page 289] Here then is the Pattern that we must follow, if we expect any Benefit by his Crucifixion: As of­ten as we look on him, whom they pierced, we must have an Eye up­on his Temper, as well as upon his Blood; and we must make the one our Example, as well as lay hold on the other for our Peace. In stead of seeking the Hurt, or in­tending the Hurt, or wishing the Hurt of any; we must apply and set our Hearts as the Lord Jesus did, to do every one all the Good we can; and then are we his in­deed. To sum up all then in the Words of St. Paul; Let all Bit­terness, and Wrath, and Anger, and Clamour, and Evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all Malice. Be ye Kind one to another, and Tender-hearted. Put on (as the Elect of God, Holy and Beloved) Bowels of [Page 290] Mercy, Goodness, Humbleness of Mind, Meekness, Long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgive­ing one another: If any Man have a Quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these Things, put on Cha­rity, which is the Bond of Perfect­ness. And let the Peace of God Rule in your Hearts, to the which also ye are called in one Body. Amen.

O Lord, who hast taught us, That all our Doings without Charity are nothing worth; send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our Hearts that most excellent Gift of Charity, the very Bond of Peace, and of all Virtues; without which, whosoever Liveth, is counted Dead before thee: Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.

[Page 291] ALmighty and Everlasting God, give unto us the Increase of Faith, Hope, and Charity; and that we may obtain that which thou dost Promise, make us to Love that which thou dost Command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALmighty Father, who hast Gi­ven thine only Son to Die for our Sins, and to Rise again for our Justification; Grant us so to put away the Leaven of Malice and Wickedness, that we may alway serve Thee in Pureness of Living and Truth; through the Merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine Elect, in one Communion and Fellowship in the [Page 292] Mystical Body of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; Grant us Grace so to fol­low thy Blessed Saints in all Vir­tuous and Godly Living, that we may come to those Ʋnspeakable Joys, which thou hast Prepared for them that Ʋnfeignedly love Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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